Friday, October 28, 2011

A Miscellany of Murder

A Miscellany of Murder: From History and Literature to True Crime and Television, a Killer Selection of Trivia, by The Monday Murder Club, is a rather long winded and pretentious title for a decidedly light weight non-fiction book. Having said that, I will admit that some of the tidbits in the book are interesting. It's just the little things that bug me. As always.

Is it just me or has there been a decline in the quality of work done by editors/proof readers/fact checkers? One of the most glaring mistakes in this book is that it lists the name of Sue Grafton's female detective as “Insey Millhone.” Anyone who has read any of the Alphabet books knows her name is Kinsey. It's a stupid mistake that should have been caught.

The other big problem I have with this book is that they present all kinds of “facts” without stating the sources. There's no bibliography or end notes. Take the following list as an example.
 Women commit:
  • 30 percent of murders within a family
  • 34 percent of intimate-partner killings
  • 48 percent of infanticides
  • 15 percent of murders of the elderly
It's a very interesting list but there's no word on where they got it. Magic 8 ball? Ouija board? We just don't know. Sloppy.

I should tell you that “murder” in this book is divided into seven categories based on the Seven Deadly Sins. This leads the editors to stuff some slightly square pegs into their preconceived round holes. It also leads them into writing some stupid stuff:

Stumped by Perry Mason 
Would you believe that America's favorite lawyer of all time, Perry Mason, never cracked any of his cases? Well... sort of, Raymond Burr, who played Perry Mason in the enormously successful TV series from 1957-1966 in some 271 episodes and then again from 1985-1993, said that he never managed to solve any of the cases until he'd read them all through. In fact, he admitted further that he'd often been puzzled about who committed the murder even after shooting the script. Sounds like The Case of the Slothful Thespian.

So what's wrong with that? To start off there's no citation for what Mr. Burr supposedly said. It is almost certainly taken out of context. Let's just forget the fact that Burr filmed an average of 28 episodes a season - as opposed to the 22 that seems to be the average these days. Let's forget the fact that TV shows and movie scripts are usually shot out of order. It's not unlikely that he wasn't always sure of what happened. Especially if they shot the final scene first. It happens. Because of the complicated script, The Usual Suspects actor, Gabriel Byrne, thought he was Keyser Söze.

My final point is that it's a good thing you can't slander the dead. In my opinion, it sounds to me like The Case of the Slothful Writers Trying to be Funny and Just Sounding Bitchy.

So those are my little nitpicks about this book. It's not a total waste of time. If you're looking for some suggestions of movies to see or books to read then this book will give you something some pointers. Just don't expect to get much else to chew on.