Murder from the Right

by John O’Sullivan

Though I mentioned above the affection for NR expressed by several attendees at Magna cum Murder, it was as more a literary than a political affection. There is a wide variety of political views among connoisseurs of pillage, rape and murder. But that variety is what separates the genre from the literary “mainstream” where a knee-jerk Bush-hatred is de rigueur.

That emerged on the panel on political correctness–which was the reason a non-thriller writer like me (to put it mildly) had been invited. Ruth Dudley Edwards, Charlotte Hays, and Bill Fitzhugh were the other panelists. Bill was the “liberal” member of the panel and he did a good job of arguing that political correctness was a kind of compassionate courtesy designed to compensate for past injustices inflicted on minorities.

But political correctness, seriously pursued, would make the crime novel impossible. Half the characters in a modern thriller talk in a highly politically incorrect way because they are not upstanding members of respectable society. Bill’s own very funny comic thrillers would not survive a Puritan onslaught. And in Lindsey Davis’s crime thrillers set in ancient Rome most the characters take slavery and gladiatorial combat for granted as normal aspects of everyday life.

Ms. Lindsey explained in her lunchtime interview that she solves any moral problem here by having her hero detective, Marcus Didius Falco, raising Seneca-like objections to these institutions. If you think that makes the novels sound solemn, you couldn’t be more wrong. They are sharp and witty–a wonderful way of being entertained while learning ancient history without noticing it.