The Magazine for Crime & Mystery



Val McDermid Interview

Nevada Barr on writing HUNTING SEASON plus an excerpt

Paul Doherty's short story THE KYRIE MAN

Stark Contrasts Michael Carlson examines the pulp fiction of Richard Stark

Have you got what it takes to be a Writer? by Fiona Shoop

It Could Only Happen in Hollywood

Code 61

Donald Harstad

Fourth Estate £9.99


Reviewed by Mick Herron

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Much is made on the cover of ex-cop Harstad's "authenticity", so it's not surprising that the first few pages of Code 61 amount to a crash course in radio call-signs and dispatcher etiquette. Before that, though, there's a rather pointless half-page prologue which brings nothing to mind so much as Dixon of Dock Green: "It's been my experience that cases fall into categories that are a bit different than the examples they cite at the academy … I think you'll see what I mean." What he means is, the story's about somebody who thinks he's a vampire. This, in itself, isn't that preposterous (in the genre, I mean); what bothered me is the number of people in this Iowan-set story who know the guy, and also think he's a vampire. I'm hope I'm not giving away too much of the plot here, because there isn't much plot involved ("Of all our cases, this one wasn't the most difficult to solve"); what there is quite a lot of is a kind of cultural name-dropping. The hero ("My name is Carl Houseman, and I'm a Deputy Sheriff") is quick to impress on us his broad frame of reference: expounding on nihilism at the drop of a hat, listing the heavy books he has at home, and defining Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle for the edification of a young suspect. I think we're meant to understand that these Iowan cops are no hicks. Pity, then, that some of them think to carry garlic with them while hunting a wannabe vampire ("You can never be too safe"). That's what I call hick behaviour. Worth reading if you want to know more about dispatcher etiquett.

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