Down these mean streets Patti Smith now goes? (Or: following in the footsteps of lazy journalists)


What’s with so many journalists and reviewers talking about crime fiction in such an ill informed and imbecilic way?

Take this one fluff article in the Guardian by Sean Michaels:

Patti Smith may soon follow in the footsteps of Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin and Stieg Larsson. This week, the singer revealed she has completed “68%” of a “detective story” based in England.”

One can only assume, since Michaels is billed as the ‘guardian.co.uk Music’s north American news correspondent’, that he’s never read a detective novel in his entire life.

If we may adopt his sad & lazy ‘follow in the footsteps’ trope and apply it more literally, to say that (by writing a detective novel) Patti Smith is following in the footsteps of Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin and Stieg Larsson, is like saying that I (if I were to retire to Prague) would follow in the footsteps of Lassie (Come Home), Napoleon (exiled to Saint Helena) and Neil Armstrong (small stepping for man).

Having said that, I was happy to read that Patti Smith is writing a detective novel.

Unlike the hapless Michaels, I actually love detective novels and I am quite a devoted fan of Patti Smith.

Will it be a good novel? Who knows? If it is, that will give me just another reason to pray at the altar of Patti Smith. If it isn’t? Well, for one, I doubt that Sean Michaels would even notice.

As for me, I would be slightly disappointed but Patti Smith would have to join the Sarah Palin appreciation society, strangle a good dozen or so of kittens and puppies, marry Robert Mugabe and make an ABBA tribute album, before my love for all her previous work could be tarnished. Writing an inferior detective novel would certainly not do it…

and, having read her memoir ‘Just Kids’, I have my doubts she is capable of writing anything bad.

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One Response to “Down these mean streets Patti Smith now goes? (Or: following in the footsteps of lazy journalists)”

  1. Jantar Says:

    I forgot: about the title, ‘Down these mean streets Patti Smith now goes?’

    From Raymond Chandler’s essay, ‘The Simple Art of Murder’:

    “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.”

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