• Crime Fiction,  Poetry

    A Poem Fit For White-Collar Crime: In the City of Night

    A poem, In the City of Night, by John Gould Fletcher, that’s fit for white-collar crime: In the City of Night by John Gould Fletcher (To the Memory of Edgar Allan Poe) City of night, Wrap me in your folds of shadow. City of twilight, City that projects into the west, City whose columns rest upon the sunset, city of square, threatening masses blocking out the light: City of twilight, Wrap me in your folds of shadow. City of midnight, city that the full moon overflows, city where the cats prowl and the closed iron dust-carts go rattling through the shadows: City of midnight, Wrap me in your folds of…

  • Cocktails,  Crime Fiction,  Theology

    Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction

    Pop culture and theology mix fruitfully in pulp-crime fiction. Here’s a four-part course from 2012: Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction          . Here’s the blurb that went with the class: Crime fiction, in its varied forms, both illuminates and counterpoints the Gospel.  Crime fiction correctly presents and analyzes the sinful human condition, even where its conclusions are horribly wrong.  And, in crime fiction as nowhere else, the law is most definitely the Law: God did not get after Cain for shoplifting. So: four classes’ worth of dark human hearts and blazing Gospel light, interspersed with mayhem, Augustine, detectives, 1930s pulp novels and the overlooked theological punch from the opening line of The Postman Always Rings…

  • Compliance,  Crime Fiction,  Theology

    Criminals In Ties: Contract Law and Reservoir Dogs

    The interplay between law — especially criminal law — and theology is more subterranean and nuanced than many give it credit for.  The same is true of civil law, as here:  Contract Law and Reservoir Dogs A contract is an exchange of promises: “I promise to do x if you promise to do y.”  Each party must undertake an obligation—called “consideration”—for the contract to be binding.  A simple unilateral promise with no consideration (“I will give you my car on Monday”) is not usually binding.  These law-rules about obligations in our daily lives provide a contrast to the covenant that the Lord makes with David and to the way that…

  • Cocktails,  Crime Fiction,  Organized Crime

    St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and the Cocktails That Go With It

    We avoid sentimentality, but the culture is awash in it on Valentine’s Day.  This “holiday” is not traditionally associated with business crime, but we will do our best.  The day is sometimes associated with alcohol, and this year happens to fall on a Friday.  We acquit ourselves well in this latter regard. Here’s a story about the February 14, 1929 slaughter from the Chicago Tribune:  the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: On this frigid morning, in an unheated brick garage at 2122 N. Clark St., seven men were lined up against a whitewashed wall and pumped with 90 bullets from submachine guns, shotguns and a revolver. It was the most infamous…

  • Crime Fiction,  Theology

    John D. MacDonald and King Saul

    We worked John D. MacDonald’s private eye, Travis McGee, into this discussion of King Saul and the young David:  Spare the King and Seize the Spareribs.  I most recently read The Quick Red Fox, which I was thinking about for the Saul and David post. MacDonald had fine PI prose: “We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody threw the girl off the bridge” (Darker Than Amber (1966)).  

  • Crime Fiction,  Theology

    George V. Higgins and the Archeology of White-Collar Crime

    In popular culture, business-crime is presented cartoon-fashion. In movies, on television or in novels, businesspeople who are corporate targets of government investigations come across as Snidely Whiplashes with French cuffs.  This practice is predictable, its results boring.  Not so with the work of the late Boston-based novelist and one-time Assistant United States Attorney George V. Higgins (1939 – 1999).   From the George V. Higgins Collection at the University of South Carolina: George V. Higgins (1939-1999) succeeded in nine distinct careers, all of which are documented in his archive.  Armed with two English degrees and a law degree, Higgins became a journalist for the Associated Press, The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal,…

  • Crime Fiction,  Sentencing

    Why’d He Do It?

    Here’s a note from Professor Ellen Podgor about an article on Sentencing the Why of White Collar Crime by Todd Haugh (Illinois Institute of Technology – Chicago-Kent College of Law)  in the Fordham Law Review.  From the abstract: “So why did Mr. Gupta do it?” That question was at the heart of Judge Jed Rakoff’s recent sentencing of Rajat Gupta, a former Wall Street titan and the most high-profile insider trading defendant of the past 30 years. The answer, which the court actively sought by inquiring into Gupta’s psychological motivations, resulted in a two-year sentence, eight years less than the government requested. What was it that Judge Rakoff found in…

  • Crime Fiction

    Browning: “the poet, not the automatic”

    Does reading literary fiction really increase your social intelligence?  Here: I Know How You’re Feeling, I Read Chekhov Maybe.  But what about crime fiction?         A little Raymond Chandler increases the social intelligence you really need.  The best crime fiction illumines sin, salvation and manners as well as Chekhov. See this 1977 essay on Chandler by Clive James:  The Country Behind The Hill ‘In the long run’, Raymond Chandler writes in Raymond Chandler Speaking, ‘however little you talk or even think about it, the most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time.’ At a…

  • Crime Fiction

    Crime and T.S. Eliot

    Today (September 26th) is the birthday of American-born (but eventually British-subject) poet T.S. Eliot (1888-1965).  He wrote little about crime except Murder in the Cathedral (1935): Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain: Temptation shall not come in this kind again. The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason. -Thomas, Part I And here’s one about a criminal cat, Macavity: Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw— For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law. He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair: For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!…

  • Crime Fiction

    W.H. Auden: “Detective Story”

    From  W.H. Auden (1907-1973), a poem about crime (fictional and real): Detective Story by W.H. Auden For who is ever quite without his landscape, The straggling village street, the house in trees, All near the church, or else the gloomy town house, The one with the Corinthian pillars, or The tiny workmanlike flat: in any case A home, the centre where the three or four things that happen to a man do happen? Yes, Who cannot draw the map of his life, shade in The little station where he meets his loves And says good-bye continually, and mark the spot Where the body of his happiness was first discovered? An…