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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Where is the Mystery?

It always seemed normal to me for a mystery story to begin at the end of a mahogany paneled hallway in front of a door with a transom above and a beaded glass window with the name of a private eye in gold letters. The guy inside would subsist on Lucky Strikes and cheap whiskey. In spite of his rumpled suit, and he always wore a suit, and his stained hat, he loved his country, his mother, and believed that good triumphed over evil.

But things are different in the literary world these days. The traditional mystery is very difficult to find. Oh, there’s still plenty of murder going on out there but it’s not some customary bad guy getting revenge on a squealer or an opportunistic jewel thief killing a courier carrying a satchel full of diamonds. Even the ever popular serial killer is seeing his star wane.

Nowadays it always seems to be a renegade terrorist trained by the CIA, KGB, or any one of a dozen other covert operations agencies. And his targets aren’t ordinary people either. They’re, at the very least corporate CEO’s and more often high ranking government officials. Even the Pope has become a favorite target. And the assassins aren’t using thirty-eight snub noses anymore either. They need far more sophisticated weapons and night vision goggles. For some reason AK47’s are popular even though they’re a somewhat inferior assault rifle. But these guys are highly trained operatives and the author always takes you inside their heads so that you can see the tactics develop through skilled eyes. The action level has noticeably increased as well. It’s reminiscent of Boston Blackie who always seemed to find himself in a death struggle on top of a water tower or on the roof of a speeding train. The car chase scenes in Bullit and The French Connection come to mind.

I’m not complaining about modern thrillers, I just wish they hadn’t pushed Mike Hammer and Sam Spade out of the way while clawing their way to the forefront.

I’ll continue to read and review these books and I’ll genuinely enjoy them… But I miss my old friends.

2011 Past Columns