Just as I am in awe of Chuck Berry, as the pioneer of rock and pop music I have loved, I sample mystery classics. If not for demanding its own writing criteria, like ensuring scenes apply to the plot and move it along; it is almost as broad as the fiction category. I really have to be entertained by literature that has no spirit encounters or genuinely mysterious puzzles! I grew up on gothic mysteries so old, I never sought addresses to contact my favourite authors because I imagined they must be deceased! I joked to Ron that a 2000 release was new for me. Mysteries that drum-up their plots from a crime, when there are so many more creative puzzles in the world, are my least favourite and least of all; police crime-solving. I at least want an everyday heroine to solve it but since few authors utilize true mysteriousness; those blueprints are prevalent. I wanted to give a pioneer like Ellery Queen a try. Goodness knows I collected twenty-five of these novels, before opening “The Roman Hat Mystery“.
It took me eight days to finish it today because I hated it. However rare for me, I issued it one star! My review can speak for itself, under my menu up top, called “Reviews – Mine“. Another tab singles out Canadian authors. I have not always swooned over a supposed classic but we have estalished it’s nothing to do with lacking appreciation for bygone eras. What surprised me this afternoon was that my low rating was in the minority. It reminds me of people who think everyone must love The Beatles. I don’t! Did they contribute memorably to their field? Yes indeed and even Ellery Queen created a magazine that lasted decades. Unfortunately I loathed their writing style. I could hardly bear to get through the novel and will sell their remaining novels without going through it again. I am sure any reader sees for herself that no matter how creative a plot, or however interesting any subject, even if it should be up our alley; it comes to nothing if we can’t stand how it’s written.
It was also boring, when I wasn’t shrieking over awfully-chosen adjectives and adverbs. The novel comprises speeches and takes 90 pages to leave the first location! It seriously felt as if I were sitting through the Roman Theatre’s interrogation in real time; stuck with the detained audience and cast! A few reviewers doling out two stars, agreed it was boring, lecturesome, and racist. This is the subject of the discussion I offer. My largest shock, glancing at other write-ups, is that because this came out in 1929…. nearly everyone thought it was okay or “expected”!!!! Ladies and gentlemen: degrading behaviour and attitudes are never okay! There is no year in time that excuses it!
One woman’s review rebuked editing books for politically-decent content, saying we should depicts periods as they were. Was every person across time prejudist? I submit that it was never the majority at all. Negative news gets the front page and dictates history books. The rebuked low ratings in the context of a book’s time period. As someone who frequently champions those points, politely, I would agree; if she had not missed the boat on her intentions. Sure, it would be prepostrous to replace letter mail with computers and parasols with Iphones; on the notion that youngsters would relate to a story better. I advocate time snapshots. I loved the legitmate 1929 flair; prohibition, the idea of theatre when there was no television, the titular tophats. If a book depecited separate washrooms for blacks in the United States; well, that was a fact. Outdated words, not deemed unkind at the time, can be overlooked. No ill will was intended by the descriptors “indian” or “coloured”.
Prejudism means thinking of someone as inferior. It is wholly different from words or customs that are today considered gauche. See the difference? The idea that rejecting or giving low grades to in reaction to prejudism, is unfair to a 1929 novel, is false. My principal message is that racism does not and never has, represented any era of time! Racist actions occurred if racist people had governing positions and thus, passed abominable laws. If we think of Jews ostracized, imprisoned, or killed in the second world war: no one would dare say: “Oh, that was all right for the 1940s”. If we think of women murdered in the 1700s over the absurd accusation of witchcraft (an actual Wicca gave a helping hand when I was at my lowest): do we say “Oh well, those were just the times”? No! Mistreatment is mistreatment and a year never excuses it.
One of Gabrielle Roy’s humourous short stories is about two housewives fighting to be first on their street to board a black gentleman! “Street Of Riches” is from 1955 (see either of my blog’s review tabs). One of Phyllis A. Whitney’s civil war epics, “Step To The Music” is from 1953 and this great lady was born in 1903. She is a relic of old attitudes. Well then, what was hers? The story contains a scene in which a respected black woman is afraid to dismount a Long Island ferry and asks the protagonist’s family, high class no less, to escort her home. They help her unhesitatingly. I don’t buy into the idea that Richard Queen grabbing a Turkish ward’s neck and calling black ancestry “a bad break”, is a sign of those times. You must know of animal and human rights defenders, or just plain moral people, of older eras.
I do not believe that bad behaviour receiving publicity over history, is representative of most of us! We don’t hear enough stories, except in Hollywood films, about people who opposed racism, no matter if it was silently or stoutly. There have also always been people who adored and respected animals, so I don’t buy the “old way of thinking” crap about that either. Some people still dismiss animals and other races as expendible and inferior (let canaries and Chinese citizens check the safety of mines). Contrarily, I have an anthology of poetry dating hundreds of years, dedicated to people’s love of household animals. I add this because in Ellery Queen’s novel, a very inappropriate joke was made about vivisection! And a rabbit was sacrificed to test poison; casually! As if she or he were an disposable object.
There is no failure to appreciate any epoch, which assuredly comprised fine people and customs, when I refuse to accept or overlook prejudism. Opposition through negative feedback is not akin to wanting horses & buggies out of literature of the 1800s. So too, off-colour titles like Agatha Christie’s. Politically-incorrect expressions do factually represent the jargon of olden days. Low regard of a person or animal? That never represents the best, nor majority of us; time period be damned. It is a personal attitude and SHOULD be graded for what it is: unacceptable.