The Quiet Game: Southern legal thriller that’s just too much

I’m not a big reader of crime novels or legal thrillers. But, I know some of their standard literary devices and stereotypes. In The Quiet Game, Greg Iles falls back on those devices and stereotypes so frequently that, at times, I felt like I was reading a parody.

Don’t get me wrong. It was an entertaining read. I just can’t imagine that The Quiet Game is that good compared to the top tier novels in this genre. It’s certainly not nearly as good as the three John Grisham novels I’ve read. And, it’s very different (in an inferior sort of way) than mysteries I’ve read such as the Maigret stories by Georges Simenon or The Lake of Darkness by Ruth Rendell.

A page turner. A pot-boiler. There’s no doubt The Quiet Game narrative moves right along, and the plot has twists and turns galore. Action. Adventure. Intrigue. So much so, that the other words that come to mind include contrived, melodramatic, even ridiculous. How many times can the hero, Penn Cage be shot at by the bad guys in a two week period, and most of those shots in the small town of Natchez, Mississippi? Twice? Thrice? Four times? I stopped counting.

In addition to the plot being over the top, the characters take stereotyping, especially Southern stereotyping, to new heights:

– The good-hearted, honest, handsome, crusading, Ole Miss alum and lawyer–Penn Cage–is the hero. He is so wonderful, that not one, but two beautiful women are throwing themselves at him.

–  His father, the good-hearted, honest, world-weary Atticus Finch-like, cigar-chomping small town doctor, who treats everyone, including, yes especially, African-Americans, with respect and dignity.

– Of course, both father and son are atheists of the Old Southern aristocratic variety. Much too wise to be Christians themselves, they nonetheless are tolerant and respectful of the faith of those who do believe, especially…..

– African-American Christians. Of course, the person with the strongest faith is the elderly, black maid who has loyally served the doctor and his family for years, and is, thus, practically family.

– The mind-bogglingly beautiful, passionate, intelligent, mysterious, rich Southern Belle. Although groomed to matriculate at Ole Miss, she instead, in one of the many early mysteries of the novel, attends one of the few other schools acceptable to genteel southerners, the University of Virginia.

– The crazy, dangerous, racist, evil redneck/one-time policeman. His villainy is made all the more heinous because he bears the same last name as one of the great saints of Mississippi. Ray Presley is bad to the bone and beyond.

– The good-hearted FBI agent, driven to drink by the injustices he’s seen perpetrated by Evil Edgar (as in Director, J. Edgar) Hoover, fired by the Bureau to cover up their own nefarious dealings, but who at age 70 can still perform in the pinch like a 25 year-old Navy Seal.

I could go on. It’s all really too much.

I decided to read The Quiet Game after hearing an interview with Iles. He sounded like an intelligent and likable guy.  We’re about the same age. He’s a fellow Mississippian, and this book is set in Natchez.

If you’re in the mood for a dark, rollicking, good-guys-versus-bad-guys, stereotypical Southern legal thriller — and, you’ve read all of Grisham’s novels already — then, prepare to put aside your disbelief and pick up a copy of Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game.

For me, I think I’ll go back to Inspector Maigret, or check out some of Grisham’s newer stuff.

Trump supporters – can you blame them?

In his outstanding essay, “Conservatives have failed Donald Trump’s supporters,” Michael Brendan Dougherty, hits the nail on the head: working class Americans are between a rock and a hard place, sometimes ignored, often disrespected, and, in effect, frequently told to suck it up by upper and upper middle-class conservatives . Donald Trump doesn’t have the answers, but he at least says what they’re thinking. Trump ridicules a lot of people. But, he doesn’t ridicule the working class.

Dougherty is right:”traditional” conservatives from all camps–country club, neocon, intellectual, social–need to recognize their arrogance and the political and moral foolishness of telling Trump followers to–as summarized by Dougherty–“Get a job, you racists, and stop playing the victim! Don’t you remember the ’80s?”

Read the whole thing.

Finding the right words on PC campuses

Hobey Baker posted this recommendation over at First Things a few months ago in the midst of on-campus turmoil about language, speech, words, and titles. I wholeheartedly agree that universities should consider his tongue-in-cheek advice. Of course, they probably won’t recognize it as tongue-in-cheek. Who knows; maybe some of them will actually adopt the recommendation. How sweet that would be.

The limits of free speech according to Bernie and Hillary

The first amendment protects our right to free speech. Does that right extend to groups that we join comprised of like-minded people?

During the midst of the civil rights struggle of the 1950s, the state of Alabama decided that the NAACP was stirring up too much trouble. The state went to court to kick the NAACP out of Alabama, using a variety of arguments and legal maneuvers, including a subpoena for the NAACP’s membership lists.

The NAACP brought a countersuit, NAACP v. Alabama. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in favor of the NAACP’s right to continue operating in Alabama. Furthermore, the Court held that “freedom to associate with organizations dedicated to the ‘advancement of beliefs and ideas’ is an inseparable part of the the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Makes sense to me.

But, as George Will points out, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and legions of others think that such protection should NOT be extended to groups involved in political campaigns.

Under a logic that escapes me, the opponents of collective free speech in political campaigns (isn’t that a venue where we want to maximize free speech?), think that the Supreme Court’s 1958 NAACP v. Alabama decision is wonderful, but that the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the government can’t stop non-profit groups from spending their money to express their opinions in political campaigns, is egregiously unfair and awful.

Would I prefer that less “group” money be spent in political campaigns? Probably. I also would prefer that we Americans spend less money on our pets and more on charitable causes.

Should the government regulate our spending on political campaigns or our pets? No.

Free speech in a democracy, particularly in political campaigns, is not limited to individuals standing on street corners shouting their ideas or tweeting their ideas on Twitter. Free speech includes banding together with others, raising money, and spending money on advertising. This is a liberty that is worth the abuses and ugliness that come along with it.

If Bernie and Hillary don’t like it, they should propose an amendment to the Constitution that makes an exception to free speech that prohibits campaign spending by groups. Then, the stakes will be out in the open for all to see and debate.