Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why I hate "The Sopranos"

I don't really. I have to admit that I watch it every chance I get, and cried a bit when Silvio whacked Adrianna. But what mob dramas like The Sopranos has done is spoil the appetite of some readers for books that approach all those backroom intrigues, backseat shootings, and double-dealing from a historical perspective.

There was a time when those of us who specialize in the Prohibition or Depression era desperadoes could write something like, "In the fall of 1928, the Capone gunmen met in secluded Cranberry Lake, Wisconsin, to discuss the problem of George Moran." There's still nothing to stop you, but you're guaranteed to get a couple of whiney Amazon.com reviews complaining that the book wasn't "exciting enough." These people don't want to be informed, they want pure entertainment like they get every time a Sopranos episode comes on. If your coverage of the Cranberry Lake meeting doesn't include prose like "We gotta whack that crummy bastard Bugs" or "Those motherfucking Gusenbergs are gonna eat lead for what they done to Jack McGurn", then you're going to get accusations of "dull!" One day people like this will move out of their mother's basement and learn that invented dialogue is a fiction technique, but until then, they're free to wail their disappointment all over the Internet. Solomon Short once said, "I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters." Change that to keyboards and you'd have my vote.

Don't get me wrong- there's nothing amiss about liking a good piece of noir or mafia-based fiction. One of my favorite books is Schooley and Sellers' Hard Boiled Love (Insomniac Press). But unless the ballsy dialogue and shocking inside stories are part of the official record, you're not going to find anything comparable in a work of historic True Crime. If you value entertainment more than information, rent a Sopranos DVD instead, and spare the serious authors your misguided, flawed reviews.

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