Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Singing Detective

Dope was great fun. It was written as a 1950s noir/pulp novel - the search for a missing girl caught up in New York's heroin underworld. But it was so much better written than those old 50s pulp novels that I think we have a definite case of the imitation being better than the original. Sara Gran is a really good writer and the guys who wrote the pulps often weren't (or didn't put the same time and effort into the work). I then read an old pulp from 1952 called Thin Air by Howard Brown. Its about a woman who disappears on her husband after they return from vacation. Nowhere near as good as Dope.

I've been reading a hefty biography of Dennis Potter, the man who wrote the TV mini-series The Singing Detective. And I've been re-watching The Singing Detective, which I now own, on DVD. It is, without doubt, the greatest thing ever shown on television (even though I don't think it has ever been shown in its entirety in the US). Who knew that a musical set in a hospital about a writer of detective stories and who is suffering from a debilitating skin disease and simultaneously writing a detective story in his head, hallucinating, reliving his childhood, reluctantly undergoing psychotherapy, and feuding with his ex-wife could be so compelling and entertaining? And since Potter himself suffered from the same skin disease, fact and fiction is blurred in amazing ways. (Michael Gambon plays the Singing Detective. He also played Inspector Maigret, Georges Simenon's famous detective, on PBS. I have about 150 Simenon novels and I was always amazed at how on some of the books, the drawing of Maigret looked so similar to Michael Gambon and what I imagined Maigret to look like - until I found out that some of these books were republished when PBS first broadcast adaptations of them for the first time. I think I'll be getting them from Netflix soon.) I can't remember how I found out about it but I knew of it for years before I ever saw it. Dennis Potter did a famous interview as he was dying and I had heard snippets of it on Morning Edition and I guess it stuck with me. The DVD has the full interview but I haven't watched it yet. (Sometime in the last week or two I heard a profile of Neko Case and her new album on Morning Edition and then I somehow found myself in a record store buying her new album - and I barely know anything about her. But as it turns out, the new album is pretty cool.)

I also caught up with two Michael Connelly novels that I bought last year but didn't get around to reading. Both The Closers and The Lincoln Lawyer were fantastic. Next up is the new Sarah Waters novel The Night Watch.