Which writers do the best job of critiquing society within their crime fiction?

Last night I wrote a flash piece that was pretty didactic. Hard to submerge my point artfully in a 700 word piece. But looking at the crime fiction novel, which writers do the best job here? Which writers critique society most effecitvely from the bloody pulpit of a crime novel?

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The writers that do it best do it through the eyes of the characters. To risk embarrassing him, I think Steven Torres' upcoming book does a brilliant job of criticising a police system that ignores a minority. Even now, I still have the urge to go to the Bronx and smack a few policemen upside the head. And that's because I felt what the character's felt.

I'm pretty sure good old Edgar Allen Poe was of the opinion that art's purpose was not to teach but to be a purely aesthetic experience. Personally, I'd say there's room for everything. I want some art to teach me something new, to get me thinking, and I want other art to just be a purely enjoyable, aesthetic experience. If it was one way or the other all of the time, I know I'd get tired of it all pretty damned quick.
Ah, but the beauty is in the subtlety with which you're 'taught'. I mean, look at a painting on the wall, put there because it is aesthetically pleasing. Does it lecture? Does it scold? No. But after dozens of times looking at it the light goes on and you realize understand the technique, or what makes it different from a different work of art, or you see a meaning in it you never thought of before.

I mean, to me it's like those horror movies, Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th. Pffft. Dribble. Unrealistic and utterly pointless. A complete time-killer. It's shit acting, shit scripts.

Then there are things I watch just because I'm hooked on characters. Halifax fp. Water Rats. Huge Water Rats fan. One of the most gut-wrenching things I ever saw on series tv was when Rachel died in Jack's arms on Water Rats, and she's calling for Frank. Fuck. I bawled like a baby. I... think I'll be quiet. You can make fun of me now for my limited exposure to Aussie tv. At least I don't cite Home and Away on my favourites list...
The Nightmare on Elm Street movies actually taught a concept that stuck with me. Thinking about Freddy gave him the power to control your dreams. The more you believed in him, the more powerful he became. It's like a gypsy curse or quantum physics. Your thoughts affect reality in a positive or negative feedback loop. If I watched any of those movies now, I'd probably have a good laugh. But if I was a kid again, I might just have a good time.

Water Rats was a great show. I sold one of the first widescreen TVs to a guy that had a small part in it. And I love anything Rebecca Gibney is in. White Collar Blue was another really good cop show, but short lived. Foxtel is doing something very interesting with their new series, Dangerous ,about suburban ram raiders. Really well done.

To tell you the truth, I never watched a lot of Aussie TV and nowadays I just don't even watch a lot of TV. I sometimes accidentally watch Neighbours while I'm eating dinner, but as soon as the food's down, I'm out of there.
See, now that you say it, I can see that. Although at the time I guess I didn't stick with NOES long enough to get it.

I did see some of White Collar Blue. I really don't watch much tv at all, but I'll keep my eye out for Dangerous.
I still think it's almost criminal that Seven didn't follow up on the 2 Murray Whelan tele-movies they did based on Shane Maloney's novels. Especially as they starred David Wenham. I know at one stage Shane Maloney was hopeful it might lead to a tv series, but alas, it didn't top the ratings so that idea was scrapped.
Hey, I'm mentioned! Cool! (See? No shame here...) The initial confrontation with that police officer is from an incident that actually happened in my family, by the way.
I'd agree with Rankin. He's done a good job of commenting on society of late. Reginald Hill's latest "Death of Dalziel" touches on terrorism as well.

The other author who does this well is Henning Mankell. He seems to raise issues that society is grappling with quite regularly.
Carl Hiaasen and James Lee Burke definitely do an excellent job of this.


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