Jan. 1st, 2017

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There are times when I like reading crime fiction, particularly crime fiction featuring serial killers. Quite some years ago, I read several particularly gruesome novels of this sort - novels so gruesome, in fact, that they border on horror - by the Canadian writing consortium who call themselves Michael Slade. I rather enjoyed them at the time.

Being sick and miserable this holiday season, I decided to revisit this particular author, reading some of the older books, one that I'd read before but didn't remember well (Headhunter) and two I don't remember reading (Ripper and Primal Scream).

They did not age particularly well in some ways, though they definitely satisfied the itch I have to read such books from time to time. The structure of the books, particularly Headhunter, which was the first published, was clunky. The dialogue did not always ring true. Technically, they were at best mediocre.

I very much liked, and continue to like, the fact that these books feature Canadian protagonists, RCMP officers, and that they have a strong procedural focus.

The most difficult thing about them, however, is the way in which the author(s), in attempting to expose sexism and racism in Canadian society and in the RCMP, manage to perpetuate it in their writing. It's very unsettling to see them trying to create a central hero figure in DeClerq who is not overtly sexist or racist and whose internal commentary is intended at times to highlight issues of racism and sexism in history, society, the RCMP, its officers snd policies, and the process of policing, while at the same tine giving us other protagonists who are very much sexist and racist, and relying on tropes from the manhating lesbian feminist to the superstitious black pimp/drug dealer steeped in "voodoo" practices straight from the swamps surrounding New Orleans. Oh, there are admirable female characters and a few admirable indigenous characters when the plot demand it, but the treatment of these issues is disturbingly uneven.

Nonetheless, I plan to read some of Slade's newer novels and see what kind of growth, if any, there has been.


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