Thursday, July 29, 2010
Looking Back, Youth
Title: The Price of Love and Other Stories
By: Peter Robinson
Inspector Alan Banks is a familiar character to many of Peter Robinson’s readers. He is mostly known as an experienced, persistent but sometimes lone detective. We can see his career growing from Gallows View (1987) to All the Colors of Darkness (2009). However, what was he like before joining the force? Was there any family resistance against his career choice? What was his family background? How were his relationships with his parents and brother? Who was his first love? Answers to those questions might be scattered here and there in Robinson’s previous eighteen novels. But never before has he concentrated so intensely as in Going Back, an Inspector Banks novella, one of twelve stories collected in the Price of Love and Other Stories. It reminds us strongly of Henning Mankell’s The Pyramid and Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries (2008) which looks back to examine Wallander’s early police career and how he grew from an ordinary police officer to a stubborn, energetic and very good detective under the mentorship of an old detective.
Unlike Mankell’s The Pyramid, Robinson’s other eleven stories, collectively, do not necessarily concentrate on Alan Banks. Cornelius Jubb, for instance, presents the wrongful accusation of a murder charge against a Private First Class, the first colored person the patrons of the Nag’s Head, a local pub, had ever seen in 1943’s Yorkshire. The Ferryman’s Beautiful Daughter is another wrongful case against newcomers from San Francisco in 1969, when a ferryman’s daughter was murdered. In spite of the above variations in characters and subject matter, both Robinson and Mankell share a lot in common: the same baby-boomer generation with many impressionable memories about the 1960s, especially the year 1969. Their early lives were embedded with the seeds of doomed marriages, parental resistance against their career choices, but rewarding understanding and companionship from their children. The process of looking back is, as P.D. James writes in her Talking about Detective Fiction, “One of the most interesting aspects of Appleby (a character created by John Innes Mackintosh Stewart (1906-1994)) is the way in which he ages and matures so that readers who fall under his spell can have the satisfaction of vicariously living his life (p. 55).”