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Maureen Corrigan's guilty pleasures

("Washington Post" and NPR commentator Maureen Corrigan pulls the mystery crowd)

Late last month, Maureen Corrigan reviewed Sara Paretsky's latest V.I. Warshawsky novel, "Hardball," in the "Book World" section of the "Washington Post" -- a review I so admired for its clarity and ability to connect the larger dots that I posted the link on my own Facebook page, adding, "I wish I had written this."

Corrigan writes that Paretsky, like Barack Obama, first went to Chicago to do community organizing. She cites Paretsky's note that in the summer of 1966 the future mystery novelist got to watch Martin Luther King, Jr. lead efforts to desegregate Chicago housing and the riots that ensued as whites attacked police for protecting the activists. It was, Paretsky said, "a defining time" for her and now the key to this novel's mystery. Adding that Paretsky has also used the Warshawsky series to explore phenomena like McCathyism before tackling race in this one, Corrigan explains that she admires Paretsky for "realizing the potential of the home-grown hard-boiled detective genre to investigate the more troubling mysteries at the heart of our national identity."

Last Thursday at Bird Library, Corrigan said she's annoyed when she encounters comments that a detective novel is exceptional because it "transcends its genre" when "it's not a genre that needs transcending."

Corrigan is critic-in-residence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but the large crowd of fans of all ages who showed up last week for her talk about mystery fiction, "Guilty Pleasures," likely keep in touch with her work through her books -- "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading," for example -- and through the "Washington Post," or National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" -- which broadcasts in Central New York on both WAER and WRVO -- where she has been book reviewer for twenty years.

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