I’m a somewhat intelligent guy, but I don’t pretend to know everything about everything like I did back in my barroom days. Nowadays I’m perfectly willing to say, “I don’t know” when either I or someone else asks me a question. For example, here are some things I've recently asked me:
1. Is lettuce a fruit, a vegetable, or just a fancy weed?
2. Why can’t I find anything on my own fucking blog? There are 80 million widgets for Blogger, and I can’t find a simple drop-down box that will list the books I’ve reviewed and link to them.
I was looking for Denise Mina, you see, and I had to scroll through a ton of crap in my "Books Reviewed" label to find her in a small blurb at the very bottom.
Why Denise Mina, whom most of you have never heard of? Because, in my bookish opinion, she’s the most original writer of crime mysteries in the business today. She is a native of Glasgow, Scotland, lives and writes there, and she knows the city and its people like the back of her hand. Her protagonists are young females, constitutionally tough females who muck things up with their amateur sleuthing because the police are assholes, bumblers, and bullies. Police procedurals these are not.
Mina’s first trilogy, which begins with Garnethill, features Maureen O'Donnell, a twenty-something incest survivor who is psychologically quite frail. Her second trilogy, starting with Field of Blood, stars Paddy (Patricia) Meehan, a very fat and unattractive (by her own admission) eighteen-year-old who works as a “copyboy” for a fictional Glasgow newspaper. Unlikely heroes to be sure, but that is Mina’s genius: take two down-and-out Glaswegians from fucked-up families, use the time period of the late 70s and early 80s, stumble around in the very worst parts of the city, give the women potty mouths and plenty of ribald dry humor, add both tragic and nutty characters, don’t gloss over anything, and stir.
Best of all, make sure that these novels remain in their original form of Scottish English—dialect, colloquialisms, euphemisms, slang, profanity, and just plain names for things: polis rather than police, for example.
So what the hell does all of this blather have to do with the Blog o’ the Day? Plenty, because I found a blog written by a Glaswegian fellow who calls himself Jimmy Bastard—and a childhood memory piece titled The King and I. While many of his "sensitive" commenters were appalled by youthful pugilistics, Jimmy's elegant prose told it like it was without any gloss.
I know, because Denise Mina told me.