Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bosch Impressions, post George Floyd

I started watching Bosch season 6 the other night, and I'm enjoying it as I've enjoyed every season previously.  By now we know the major characters, and the season can just kick off without exposition, throwing you right into the middle of a number of different and engrossing storylines.  Bosch remains as solid a police procedural show as there is.

As I take in the episodes, though, I'm quite aware that I'm watching a series that is before the George Floyd killing and all the recent calls to defund and reform the police.  This is to take absolutely nothing away from the show, which, again, over the years, has become one of my favorites.  All crime novelists should get the kind of adaptations, on film or TV, that Michael Connelly has gotten with Bosch.  And this season's storyline, from what I've seen so far, involves sovereign citizens, both white and black, who are conspiracy theory types with a huge mistrust and hatred of the federal government and the "deep state".  There's no question of the material not being relevant, in tune with the times.

There's something odd, however.  And this is hardly an oddness limited to Bosch.  But is there any fiction that has it both ways like crime fiction does?  I'll explain.  Crime fiction of a particular type in effect prides itself on its so-called realism, its ability to look without blinking at the darkest of human darkness.  Crime writers often all but say that they're just trying to "keep it real".  If there are words more overused when describing crime fiction than "gritty" and "grittiness" -- words used as praise by the way -- than I don't know what they are. This goes for police procedurals as well as for works you'd categorize without question as "noir".  But in countless series, in print and on television, series of which precious few are as good as Bosch, you get as your characters these total pros who represent a fairly idealized kind of realism.  I mean, the investigators in these works are more realistic, say, than Hercule Poirot or the cozy sleuths of the world, but they stand out, quite often, for having a measure of exceptionalism.  Damn, if only every cop was Bosch or Jerry Edgar.  If only every metropolitan police chief was like Lance Reddick's Irving. Now there's nothing wrong with any of this; people go to fiction to spend time with characters who are "real" enough to be relatable but still have something beyond the ordinary about them.   

But in order to grapple with what's "really" going on (and by that I don't mean every single police officer in existence is racist or a militaristic thug), I would imagine that people who write these sort of stories are going to have to show more of a different side of law enforcement in the post-George Floyd world.  Or show us more of the tension, if there is any, between those in law enforcement who aren't racist and on the thuggish side and those who are.  Or show us how a cop who may have started out one way, with the best intentions, may get warped by years working in a particular job, with its hazards and pressures and organizational demands.  And what about when the cops, pissed off by politicians, do a work slow-down, and the ever-present influence of other cops who don't have the best intentions?  Police will always solve crimes and a well-told crime tale will always be interesting, but there's so much else going on now in connection with cops and their place in our world that seems worthy of deep exploration. For starters, I would think the George Floyd incident, and by extension, the many horrible incidents similar to it, and the police protest movement and the variety of characters participating, however seriously, in that movement, should provide writers with a ton of stuff to ponder and write about in their procedurals.  

I don't know.  These are just a few thoughts that popped into my head as I was watching the new season of Bosch.

But I do wonder: how "realistically" will crime writers grapple with what is going on right now?  I guess as readers we'll find out.

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