Now, this, from this morning's WSJ, is really something. I usually ignore the politics of popular fiction writers, finding the effort to pay attention to them no more rewarding than the search for good prose... But really...
...cartoonish tales of sinister capitalists doing battle with righteous journalists and anarchist hackersHenning Mankell:
A fiction writer's politics are rarely disqualifying and often add subtle moral complexity to a plot (again, think le Carré). But Mr. Mankell, who was deported last year from Israel after he participated in the Gaza flotilla fiasco, seems to care little for nuance. Indeed, the Bad Politics in Fiction award in 2010 almost certainly would have gone to his "The Man From Beijing," a jaw-dropping apologia for the genocidal rule of Mao Zedong.The rest:
Those Chinese artists who died during the Cultural Revolution might ultimately be Mao's responsibility, we're told in the novel, but mass murder was certainly "not his intention." And the book's Maoist heroine is appalled when she spots an American chain restaurant in China's Forbidden City: It's one thing to deliberately starve millions, but to eat that junk?
"The Man From Beijing" also turns its attention to Africa, offering a uniquely stupid defense of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, a man "constantly and brutally attacked in the Western media."
The region wrestles with very real threats from religious extremists—just last year, a failed suicide bomber in Stockholm and an assassination attempt against a "blasphemous" cartoonist in Copenhagen. But somehow that theme doesn't turn up in crime fiction from the school of Mr. Mankell, Ms. Marklund or the popular Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø.
Instead, the Scandinavian detective will likely continue focusing on the "criminal capitalists" (Larsson's phrase), mustache-twisting businessmen and omnipresent women-haters. Mr. Mankell, the former Maoist, has taken to heart the Chairman's dictum that all art must be politically useful or it is bourgeois decadence. "The Troubled Man," so full of detective-who-plays-by-his-own-rules clichés, fails mostly because it plays by very strict ideological rules.