Politics and Mysteries

FD has been feeling even more down than usual about politics in the US.  There seems to be an increasing war against women and a more open (among certain segments of the right) bias against homosexuality.  But FD, like a lot of people, spends more time with entertainment than with politics, and a LOT of time reading mysteries.

Perhaps, though, reading mysteries can be a way to think about politics. FD remembers an early exposure to gay culture that happened by accident — FD checked out one of Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter novels from the local public library.  There’s a lot of information online about Hansen and his novels (the first Brandstetter was published in 1970) that gently invited heterosexual readers to expand their minds.  See, for example, this tribute to Hansen by fellow mystery writers. Hansen was not the first, and certainly not the last, writer to choose a gay protagonist and today many mystery writers also include gay characters who are not the main protagonist, because, after all, if one is building a realistic world, gays are going to have to be a part of it. Lesbian protagonists came a little later, as described by Lori Lake in this 2006 essay. There are many gay and lesbian novels being written today, one can find hundreds in a simple Amazon search.  The chance the average reader will find some at the local library is good, and so without even searching them out readers will get a more inclusive look at US culture.  FD suspects that just as gay characters in television shows and movies have helped to change attitudes, so do the gay characters in mystery novels.

Lots of writers have used mystery novels to make direct or indirect protests against the gender inequality in US culture; FD is particularly impressed by Sara Paretsky, whose blog and website aren’t updated too often, but is worth a look, and whose novels will appeal to any reader of mysteries.  Paretsky’s recent novel, Breakdown, includes an examination of right-wing media and its effects on US culture, within a novel that begins with teenage girls who are fanatic about a series of vampire novels.  Paretsky’s ability to fold so much of current cultural activity into a mystery novel is one reason for her popularity.  And unlike the uncertainties of real life, in a mystery novel the reader can usually hope that the good guys will win.

FD will keep worrying about the political situation, and keep reading mysteries, too.

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