Whisky Magazine Issue 70
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Jefferson Chase looks at another home grown literary giant
One of the hallmarks of contemporary crime fiction is its liberation from the detective. Having been raised on Marlowe and Sam Spade, and countless inferior copies, writers today realise the last thing their readers need is another retread gumshoe.
That's led to a number of original experiments with the figure of the private investigator.
Perhaps none is more unusual than Rilke, the hero of Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room – and a decadently gay antiques dealer.
Rilke's case commences when he is summoned by a Glaswegian spinster to dispose of her recently deceased brother's household. The woman seems unconcerned with earning money.
Her only stipulations are that the house be immediately cleared and the contents of the attic – her late brother's sanctum – totally destroyed.
When Rilke climbs up, he discovers a number of surprises, one of them welcome: The left wall was covered in waist-high, dark oak bookcases, books neatly arranged. In the centre were a plain office chair and desk, to their left a high-backed armchair, comfortable but scruffy, inherited from some other room, beside it a bottle of malt, Lagavulin. Dead man's drink. I unscrewed the cap and inhaled a quick scent of iodine and peat which caught the back of my throat. It was good stuff, right enough.
But when Rilke checks out the content of the bookshelves and the surrounding cardboard boxes, he's left in need of a drink. They're full of vintage pornography.
A long time ago these people had moved and t...