I finally got to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang last night and it got me thinking about the post-modern PI story. Actually, post-modern is probably not quite the right title, more like Pop PI story. Oddly enough, after I watched the movie there was this show on PBS about the Pop art movement and that’s always been something I’ve wanted to import to the PI genre. The pop artists took things like ads and magazines and contemporary items and made something new out of them made them art. I want to do the same thing with television, and movies, and music, and comics. Not just write a PI series influenced or inspired by pop culture, but made WITH pop culture.
There’s been some good work like this done in literary fiction, especially by George Saunders with things like CivilWarLand, and to a lesser extent in the works of Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem and such. But there hasn’t really been much like that in mystery fiction and particularly the PI field. But after watching KKBB, I wonder if that sort of work is even workable in series fiction.
Essentially the tenants of post-modernism are all about being aware of the artist and pulling away the curtain to show how the magic is done. Its very cannibalistic of its source material and I wonder if you can do that more than once without seeming ridiculous or crossing over into the realm of parody. I have no trouble seeing the characters in KKBB continuing in a series, in fact, I’d love to Shane Black write a crime novel (His brother Terry Black is a regular is some of the mystery and horror mags). But after the first movie, it would become more standard PI fare than deconstructional of PI fare.
My first novel, Lunchbox Hero was an attempt to create a PI forged by the pop culture of TV and movies. But after a while, his constant referencing of the outside source material got irritating and so I eventually bailed on him. This is one of the reasons the narrator of Lee Goldberg’s The Man with the Iron on Badge grated on me after a while. I can’t really see him carrying on that series without growing out of the initial hook.
This is really more the start of a thought and discussion than any sort of final essay, but I’m curious about your thoughts regarding pop culture and post modernism and the PI field? Am I missing any works that tackle this well or is it something that needs to be worked with? Talk to me people?