Sunday, December 22, 2013

Humor in the Sasha Books

Even with dead bodies turning up here and there, crime fiction, especially hard-boiled private eye novels, often - in fact should - have a dose of humour in it. 

Here are a few examples of humour in the Sasha Jackson Mysteries:

The understatement:  “I can fuck up a bowl of cereal.”  (Frisky Business)  My protagonist Sasha Jackson is (like me) a terrible cook.  More than one person has told me that they laughed at this line.  I guess it’s that it’s just so simple, so benign, that visualizing what one would have to do in order to fuck up a bowl of cereal makes it funny. 

Repetition:  In Dead Light District, I re-use a play on the great Caesar quote: Veni Vidi Vici.  I variously write Venti Vidi Vici or Veni Vidi Visa or Veni VD Vici.

Adjectives: Have some fun with these!  Take invented words to the next level by inventing  adjectives via hyphenation.  In Blood and Groom, Sasha works part time at a phone sex line (and hates it).  Here’s a clip from one of her calls:  Some heavy panting in my ear brought me back to reality. The horny schmuck on the phone was on the brink of physical gratification and needed dirty talk from me to guide him through it. Twenty more minutes to go. I trotted out everything I’d learned about performing and guided Sweaty-Hairy-Trekkie to telecomm-tele-cum.”  And a line I like even more is this one from The Lies Have It, which takes place during a municipal election in Toronto.  Fortunately, there were almost no election signs for the three-hundred-pound, donut-snarfing, sub-literate, right-wing troglodyte – the only candidate whose victory would make me want to self-immolate in front of a library.”  (Torontonians may clue in to my inspiration for that one...)

And then there’s internal monologue:  This passage is from Frisky Business, and I think it’s initially funny because it’s based on a misunderstanding, but it’s also funny because of Sasha’s thoughts on it as it happens.  PI Sasha Jackson walks into a porno studio as part of her investigation, and the guy she talks to assumes she is one of the actresses:
“Go on through,” he said to me, “change room’s on the left.”
“Excuse me?  I’m not an, um, actress,” I replied.
Dude checked me out from head to toe.  “Wanna audition?  Nice face, and people love blonds.  You a natural?”
“Good.  It’s better when the carpet matches the drapes.”
In my mind, I punched him in the nose.
“I’ve never heard it put—”
“Looks like you got a good body, even though your tits are kinda small for film.”
Excuse me?
“I thought the camera added ten pounds?” I said.
“Not where you need it, babe,” he said.
“I’m an investigator,” I said, handing him my card. “Sasha Jackson.  And you are...?”
“You’re a what?  Who the fuck said that you could come in here?  Get out, this is a private studio.”
He pushed the door open and waved me through it.  I stayed still. 
“Look, I just need to talk to you for a second.  I’m not trying to cause any trouble.”  He raised an eyebrow at me.  “I just need some help, from you, or maybe some of the actors, maybe the blond over there.” I made like I was about to walk over to her.
“All right, all right.  Let’s go out front.”
I followed him back out through the swinging doors.
“What’s your name?” I asked him again.
“I’m Bongo.”
Of course you are…

Finally, there is situational humour:  You can take situational humour to another level – a wee bit over the top, as I did in the first three Sasha JacksonMysteries.  Essentially, inversion is what is at play here:  My sleuth does the right thing but the wrong way.   I can’t say much more than that because of spoilers, but picture a topless blond running down the street of an upscale neighbourhood with a large sauce pan on her head.  Or imagine a lacy pink bra making the front page of the newspapers because said bra was a key piece of evidence in a crime...  The bra and saucepan incidents themselves are funny, but what gives even more of a laugh is that the action is so out of context and so distant from the thrust of the story, which is solving a crime. 

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