I'm reading the recent Edgar winner: C.J.Box, BLUE HEAVEN. I wanted to know what makes this book worthy to be a winner among the many, many mysteries of all subgenres.

This one is a thriller. That was a tad surprising. Almost by definition, a thriller doesn't have much going for it but violence and suspense. The characters are black and white. There's frequently some evil conspiracy. And the violence is nasty -- in this case torture.

Mind you, it's not badly written and he has a multiplicity of character types. The threat is specifically against two children who saw too much. That would make it meaningful to men and women alike.

But what appalled me in this book (and once again raised the idea that writers have some sort of moral obligation) is the fact that the evil in this case is the LAPD. And lest you think that it involves only three retired officers, the book makes it clear that the Idaho community is the retirement village of large numbers of crooked LA cops: their Blue Heaven.

What does a book like that do to a decent police officer anywhere, let alone in L.A.? And in spite of the attention given to the occasional bad cop by the press, the vast majority of policemen are surely decent and doing a very tough and dangerous job.

There is very little here that, to my mind, deserved an award.

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Volunteer firefighters, sure, because they're risking their lives without compensation. But cops get a salary, so it's not a thankless job. I'm not going to give them a cookie every time they do what they're paid to do, which is protect and serve. Yeah, they don't get paid much, but the low pay of police officers is no secret and no one forces you to become one.

The police offer a public service like so many others, and I don't believe they deserve special treatment at all. Obviously we're not going to agree on that one.
For many people, public service is a calling, and that includes many cops. These people aren't simply cashing paychecks. Do you want to strip soldiers of their benefits too simply because they get paid?

The reason for the special protection for cops--as well as for corrections officers--is because they would be targets otherwise, targeted by the criminal classes for sure but also by drunk people pulled over for weaving across lanes. The level of violence would soar. It'd be harder to recruit cops soon enough. We'd end up with something like a Mexico.
I don't think most of us would argue with this point--although one should add that they're people who've been granted an enormous amount of power and responsibility, and so they're rightly held (or should be) to a more strict standard of professional behavior than the average citizen. If I screw up as a writing teacher, I give a crappy lecture on The Name Of The Rose, or some kid gets a B+ instead of an A-. If a cop screws up, people's lives can be affected in profound and lasting ways. But what I.J. was saying initially was that negative fictional depictions specifically of the LAPD are somehow damaging to honest cops. Such depictions might be unfair or exaggerated or even outright untrue, but they're also FICTION. The next time LA's minority community goes into riot mode because of police brutality, it won't be the result of something you or I or CJ Box wrote--it'll be because the entire city saw the video on the evening news. Do negative fictional descriptions of cops diminish their ability to do their jobs? It's arguable--I'd say maybe, but not very often and not to any great degree--and not nearly as much as actual witnessed and documented incidents of abuse of power, which over time can generate real frustration and hostility, particularly in minority communities.
Never underestimate the power of the printed word -- or of television. We do not know how credulous our readers are.

And let's not forget that in this society people refer to cops as pigs. If that doesn't signal an adversarial relationship, I don't know what does. Of course, it also implies that we don't like having our habits (legal or illegal) interfered with, and in this case one wonders if the majority isn't on the side of the lawbreakers. So we regress to the "every man for himself" period in past history and arm ourselves to defend our lives and our homes.
Call me a dreamer, but I think writers have to assume that the vast majority of their readers are smart enough to know the difference between fiction and documented fact. If some readers are as credulous as you say, that's not really the writer's problem.
I don't know anything about violent cops in the USA, but would assume that you can find corrupt policemen anywhere.

In my personal opinion there is one major reason why this book won the Edgar. It is an book about the classical American principles (or rather what you think they are) written almost in an western mood. These bad policemen represent the bushmen (and women) who convinced people in the US of their agenda and almost broke the moral back of the USA.
A reader clued me in to the lively discussion going here about my novel BLUE HEAVEN. While I wouldn’t normally comment, I’m compelled to jump in because the premise of BLUE HEAVEN, as described by I.J. Parker in the post that launched the thread, is misleading at best. So the whole argument here is based on a falsehood.

Yes, the story includes four corrupt former cops who retired in North Idaho among hundreds of other LAPD officers. Parker writes, “the book makes it clear that the Idaho community is the retirement village of large numbers of crooked LA cops: their Blue Heaven.” Oh, really? She's reading a different book than the one I wrote.

In fact, the crooked cops in the novel are outsiders and isolated from the other retirees as well as the community. They’re forced into the open due to the investigation by another California detective so dedicated to seeing justice done he pursues them across the country even after his own retirement. And there’s an important scene in the novel where the four bad cops – after taking over the search for the “missing” children who witnessed their crime and fled – turn away a long line of retired ex-LAPD who have lined up at the station to volunteer to help in good faith.

I.J. Parker has every right in the world not to love the novel, or to think “There is very little here that, to my mind, deserved an award.” To each his or her own. But she doesn’t have the right to mislead the readers here in regard to the plot and premise of the novel to make an argument better suited for another author or work.

C.J. Box
Ouch! Well, I deserved this for reacting to the book about half-way through. Yes, I finished the book -- a compliment in itself -- and I did say in the same thread that the novel is strong, moves very well, and has an admirable variety of characters.
But the image of the four LAPD policemen who, for the first half of the book, are shown to be brutal killers and torturers, while their presence is linked to the retirement village of LAPD officers in general was a little hard to take. I saw the distinction being made later and wondered if that was an afterthought to guard against reactions like mine. Whatever it was, it helped a great deal.

I never intended this to get back to you, C.J. -- though that was silly of me -- and apologize for causing you even the slightest twinge of dismay.

The novel did raise issues worthy of discussion on this thread, and that was my primary concern at the time. I'm afraid the ensuing discussion caused me to make some statements about the novel as a whole that are misleading. BLUE HEAVEN is indeed a very strong novel -- and as I've said before, I hope everyone here reads it.
I purchased the book Wednesday, along with for or five others. It will be my first CJ Box novel and I'm looking forward to it. However, I must apologize to CJ - I've been working through the Master and Commander series of novels, purchased The Nutmeg of Consolation in the series and started it first. But it's a holiday weekend, so I should get to Blue Heaven late in the weekend.
I love O'Brian, but I'm glad you got BLUE HEAVEN also. Most likely the thread will sell several copies.
The first C. J. Box book I read was called Free Fire and it was fantastic. I currently have Blood Trail, Winterkill and I made sure I picked up Blue Heaven, and am very anxious to read them all. His books are fantastic--great storylines and characters. I read them simply to enjoy them and do enjoy them very much.


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