Saturday, January 9, 2010

How "The Wire" Ruined Crime Novels

HBO's brilliant The Wire has effectively ruined an entire genre for me: crime books. Unless they have the same, brilliant, deeply textured plots I came to know and love on The Wire I simply have no patience for them. That is not to say of course I have not read some great crime books already this year, because I have (but more about that in a future post).
One of the reasons David Simon's series set the bar so high was it refused to dip into an predictable plot or stock character. Now, when I pick up a book that touts reviews calling it "an urban gem" (the exact review on "Thug Life") I know I will just be disappointed. My patience for terrible books has grown thin. More and more I find myself wanting to read something that gives me more than just a couple of hours of entertainment. Stieg Larsson's brilliant Millenium Trilogy is a good antidote, as is David Peace's dark and twisty Red Riding Quartet. A couple of Don Winslow books, most notably The Power of the Dog, showed what an intelligent narco thriller could be.
A Moment of Silence:
Since I am already talking about a brilliant show, I figured I would give a shout out to another one that ended: The Shield. If you've never watched, this show follows a detective in LA who is about as corrupt as you would expect. He dispenses his own brand of justice while managing to elude various factions looking to take him down. That is the story...on the surface anyways. The first three seasons were a rollicking ride through corruption as well as a twisted morality tale. The final four were claustrophobic and intense to the point where you could barely watch - yet could not turn away. One of the central questions asked through every season, episode, day was "do the ends justify the means?" Ultimately, a show as smart as The Shield allows viewers to make up their own mind. A stunning television achievement, if you have never watched the show, you are in for seven seasons of staggering entertainment. Enjoy.

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