On good writers with bad ideas

Retired prison psychiatrist and author Theodore Dalrymple reflects,

I haven’t read any of the detective stories of Henning Mankell, the Swedish world best-selling author who died recently, but I’m perfectly prepared to believe that they were good (my wife tells me that they were). I did, however, read his obituary in the British liberal newspaper, the Guardian, which was revealing.

Mankell, according to the obituary, was “a dedicated political activist.” Those words alone make clear what his views on any given political issue were likely to be: for political activism is possible only for the bien-pensant Left, any other kind of political advocacy being mere sordid lobbying.

He was lucky if his books were good.

Years ago, I reviewed mystery novels. I had to suffer through a number of just plain awful feminist “mysteries,” where the perp was always the alpha male.

Um, don’t hit me for saying this, Fembot, but the first rule of mystery writing is to create a mystery. I shouldn’t be able to guess by page three whodunit.

Incidentally, the diatribes are catalogued under D, not M.

Having spent some time in Mozambique, Mankell returned to Sweden, where “he saw that Sweden had become a much more racist country than it had seemed in the 60s, when there were hardly any immigrants from outside Scandinavia there.”

How about that for political-correctness-tinted spectacles and willful disregard of obvious realities? And still I think his books may well have been good.

Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom (essays on the British underclass) is online here:

Table of Contents

The Knife Went In 5
Goodbye, Cruel World 15
Reader, She Married Him–Alas 26
Tough Love 36
It Hurts, Therefore I Am 48
Festivity, and Menace 58
We Don’t Want No Education 68
Uncouth Chic 78
The Heart of a Heartless World 89
There’s No Damned Merit in It 102
Choosing to Fail 114
Free to Choose 124
What Is Poverty? 134
Do Sties Make Pigs? 144
Lost in the Ghetto 155
And Dying Thus Around Us Every Day 167
The Rush from Judgment 181
What Causes Crime? 195
How Criminologists Foster Crime 208
Policemen in Wonderland 221
Zero Intolerance 233
Seeing Is Not Believing 244

Lots more essays are here, all from City Journal.