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Crime Fiction and Censorship

March 11, 2013

Christa Faust Money ShotChrista Faust is one of the hottest crime writers around today. A former fetish model and professional dominatrix, Faust’s acclaimed novels such as Chokehold and Money Shot feature indefatigable former porn star Angel Dare. Why do I mention this? Well, partly to recommend Faust’s novels but also to alert you to legislation which in a few years may make it illegal to buy her work and other works of crime fiction in the UK. Tomorrow the European Parliament will vote on a resolution to ban all forms of pornography in the 27 European Union member states. Iceland, which is not in the EU, is considering similar proposals. I don’t consider Faust’s work porn– that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Pornography in its more extreme forms is already outlawed, but as Tom Chivers says at the Telegraph, to ban porn we must necessarily define it and that’s where you can see the EU casting its net into huge swathes of our culture. Chivers gives this example:

An old friend of mine who did art at university did a whole exhibition of, basically, photos of body parts and rubber models of other body parts and, really, just lots of body parts. Is that art? Is it pornography? Whether you like it or not we’ve got a decision to make, and if the EU is banning porn, then presumably it’ll be the EU that decides what’s too porny for the Tate Modern.

The nature of bans is they get extended with follow up legislation, and it’s easy to imagine some puritanical bureaucrat taking exception to Faust, or to say Raunchy paperback cover art like this example, or this one, or this one, or this one. It may be porn to them, but its art to us (or at least part of the genre we love). The European Parliament also wants to ‘eliminate gender stereotypes in the EU’ so we can kiss goodbye to the femme fatale and the sexist PI as well. In the US, this costly, impractical (especially in the Internet age) and illiberal legislation wouldn’t be seriously considered due to the First Amendment.

Would we really want to silence our authors in this way?

To illustrate, here’s a funny (NSFW) scene from James Ellroy’s Destination Morgue where Detective ‘Rhino’ Rick Jensen and actress Donna Donohue (based on Dana Delaney) go into a porno bookstore (where incidentally Ellroy himself once worked) looking for evidence on a murder case:

Donna Donahue – right by the bookstore – a bliss blast in LAPD blue.

I double-parked and jumped out. Donna said, “I didn’t have time to change, but it bought us some time here.”

“Say what?”

“I impersonated a cop. The bookstore guy’s cueing up his surveillance film from two days before the robbery. We can stand in a stall in back and watch.”

I walked in first. The clerk ignored me. The clerk salaciously salaamed to Donna. He pointed us down “Dildo Drive” – a mobile-mounted, salami-slung corridor. Packaged porno reposed on racks and shimmied off shelves. It was a donkey-dick demimonde and Beaver Boulevard.

We ducked dildos. We made the booth. Donna doused the lights. I tapped a projector switch. Black-and-white film rolled.

We saw pan shots. We saw ID numbers. We saw Sad-Sack Sidneys slap sandals in slime.

Donna said, “I already checked the credit-card receipts. Nothing from Randall J. Kirst.”

I nodded. “Nobody – not even turd burglars – want credit-card receipts from the fucking Porno Vista.”

Donna said, “Right. We’re looking for two men making purchases together – the victim and the killer I saw.”

Police smarts in forty-eight hours – add breeding and brains. I said, “What kind of work does your family do?”

Donna laffed. “They manufacture toilet seats.”

I yukked. My gut distended. I hyper-humped it back in.

Film rolled. We saw dykes buy dildos. We saw college kids buy Beaverrama, Beaveroo, Beaver Den, Beaver Bash, Beaverooski, and Beaver Bitches. We saw flits flip through The Greek Way, Greg Goes Greek, Greek Freaks, More Is More, The Hard and the Hung, and The Hungest Among Us. I laffed. Donna laffed. We bumped hips for kicks. Donna’s gunbelt clattered.

Moby Dick’s Greek Deelite, Moby Dick’s Athens Adventure, Moby Dick Meets Vaseline Vic. We yukked. We howled.

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