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The Monday review – the simple art of murder

Some Monday afternoon links, skirting around the edges of murder, which may have earlier escaped your attention.

1. On Mossad and murder – ‘Meir Dagan: the mastermind behind Mossad’s secret war’.

2. On Australian soldiers and their use of drones in Afghanistan – ‘The law of instant death’.

[There exist] big flaws in the training given to military lawyers who advise commanders on the legality of the targeted killing of suspected insurgents. Lawyers in uniform have to learn on the job, in a conflict where the consequences of a wrong decision are enormous …

An official directive points out the possibility of individual criminal responsibility for failing to comply with legal obligations and directs ADF legal advisers to be involved in all stages of the targeting process. ”At the same time, there is no formal training provided to these same legal advisers on targeting in the complex Afghanistan coalition context,” the report says.

3. On how Simone de Beauvoir murdered Montherlant’s career – ‘Monster of Marriage’. And all because he was a misogynist. As might be the reviewer.

When it comes to slandering the opposite sex, women get away with much more; the relative obscurity of the word misandry speaks for itself.

4. On murdering your titles, or, indeed, how to avoid it – ‘The Blurb #14: The Land of Underwater Birds.

The Great Gatsby is an inspired title, one for the ages, but it wasn’t Fitzgerald’s idea. He wanted to call the novel Trimalchio in West Egg, which sounds like something Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up for The Playboy Channel. An early version of Portnoy’s Complaint was called A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis. At various times, Catch-22 was called Catch-18, Catch-11, Catch-14, and Catch-17.

5. On crime fiction, the 1950 essay by Mr Raymond Chandler – ‘The Simple Art of Murder’. Pure gold – and not just for the homicidally inclined among us.

Hammett took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley; it doesn’t have to stay there forever, but it was a good idea to begin by getting as far as possible from Emily Post’s idea of how a well-bred debutante gnaws a chicken wing. He wrote at first (and almost to the end) for people with a sharp, aggressive attitude to life. They were not afraid of the seamy side of things; they lived there. Violence did not dismay them; it was right down their street.

Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish. He put these people down on paper as they are, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes.

6. And I leave you with Bernard Black on how to murder rejection – and possibly a publisher. I couldn’t embed it so you’ll just have to visit the link. It’s well worth it.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Jacinda Woodhead is the editor of Overland. Her PhD research examined abortion politics in Australia and nonfiction as political intervention.

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Comments

  1. Murder can be so diabolically sinister. I’ve just re-read ‘In Cold Blood’ and there’s no doubt from that, that some of us slide towards such an event with less complication than others. We’re all capable, so it’s said, I just wonder what each of us would have to go through in order to actually do it.

  2. Thanks for the reminder, Finn. I’ve been meaning to re-read In cold blood for some time.

    And thanks for the links, Jeff. I enjoyed Mandel’s excerpts, particularly this observation:

    Agatha Christie is thus aptly called the ‘queen of deception.’ And indeed, to practise the art of deception while ‘playing fair’ is the very quintessence of the ideology of the British upper class.

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