How important are facts in fiction? I guess it depends on the reader. Since I moved here I’ve been working my way through the vast canon of Detroit-based crime fiction, with varying levels of satisfaction. Loren Estleman’s Amos Walker series is almost uniformly a pleasure to read, although I’ve learned not to try to solve the mystery as I go along, because he’s going to pull a big rabbit out of his hat in the penultimate chapter, and you might as well just go along for the ride. Elmore Leonard is, of course, sublime from beginning to end. Donald Goines, not so much. Everyone else falls within that spectrum.
I’m currently sampling “Detroit Noir,” one of the Noir series, collections of short stories based in and around specific cities. (Sorry, Hoosiers, “Fort Wayne Noir” is not in the pipeline, although there is a Twin Cities Noir, which I hope features lots of killers in earflap hats.) It’s not bad, but it could have used another layer of editing, the kind that changes “Manoogian Manor” to “Manoogian Mansion” and corrects what was, for me, a total momentum-stopper in the one story set in Grosse Pointe, a line where “the sun dropped behind the Yacht Club.” I tried to figure if there was any point at which two people could sit in a car and watch the sun set behind the landmark Moorish watchtower, and came up with, “Not until the earth reverses its orbit.” The Yacht Club sits on the western edge of Lake St. Clair and enjoys some fabulous sunrises, but for sunsets, you’d have to be out in the water somewhere.
That kind of stuff drives me crazy. In “The Sporting Club,” Thomas McGuane sets his story in 1968 and has two characters go to the dedication of the Mackinac Bridge, which happened a decade previous. I see this stuff all the time. I know many authors aren’t journalists, and I know some ironing of the truth is permissible, but I wish they’d respect certain ironclad truths, including the construction dates of major pieces of infrastructure and the direction of the earth’s travel around the sun.
That is all.
“Detroit Noir” is pretty good, however. I hope there’s another one.
So how was your weekend? Mine went like this: Taxes errands taxes dinner w/JohnC taxes and now, soon, IRA deposits. I hate doing my taxes, but I love TurboTax, the only financial software I use. Every year, it gets better. It now inhales much of my 1099-misc data directly from my bank while I sit there filing my nails. My sole complaint: It keeps a running total of your payment/refund. At one point I owed $14,000, an utterly meaningless figure — I had told it all of my income, and none of my payments — but having a figure like that hovering in the corner makes you want to put off doing your taxes another few days.
I know I pay too much. There are probably dozens of deductions I am entitled to and don’t take. I stay squarely on the right side of the law and probably pay more than Donald Rumsfeld, but there’s no valuing peace of mind. My receipts aren’t creatively embellished. I really do keep a mileage log. If I were audited I would surely spend a few sleepless nights, but at the end it’s entirely possible I’d walk out with a refund. (Not bloody likely, but you never know.) I don’t even hate the IRS, too much. Someone has to be the bad guy.
Early in my career I wrote a story on some tax protesters in Columbus. They were followers of Irwin Schiff, and two of the dumbest telephone installers I’ve ever met. One had a Filipino mail-order bride and the other bragged about how much he wanted a Corvette, so he quit paying taxes and bought one. The latter was en route to federal prison when I left town, the other the subject of keen interest by federal authorities. They both thought they had stumbled across the greatest loophole in the history of tax law — that the income tax is voluntary. P.S. Irwin Schiff is in jail. Wesley Snipes should be.
Not much bloggage today, but a fun one. Find the No. 1 song on the day of your birth. It’s like the rock ‘n’ roll zodiac. Mine was “Jailhouse Rock,” which I consider a good omen. Like being born in the Year of the Dragon. Imagine being born under “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” That would suck.
Off to the bank to “save for retirement.”