Sjowall and Wahloo’s Laughing Policeman


The Laughing Policeman, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

The fourth novel in Sjowall and Wahloo’s Martin Beck series of Marxian police procedurals.  Set in Sweden in the 1960s and 70s, the Beck series are both page turning detective stories, and indictments of what the writers viewed as a society full of liberal promise on the surface, but rotten on the inside.

 

The Laughing Policeman is the fourth novel in the series (and the only one to win an Edgar). It focuses on the investigation surrounding a mass shooting on a bus which killed seven people, including one of Beck’s colleagues in the police force. The mystery here is of the Easter egg type — where the solving of one opens up others, and as with all the Beck novels, it’s compelling enough. But what makes this and the rest of the series so special isn’t the plot, it’s the characters. The obsessive Beck, the socialist policeman Kollberg, and others. They’re wonderfully drawn and tell us about what it means to live in a Sweden of both social democracy and profound social ills. A place where ostensibly the state cares for all, but in reality, child prostitution flourishes.

 

In the Beck series focus on character, and social ills, against the backdrop of hardboiled crime, we have the beginnings of so-called ” Scandinavian noir” and the obvious inspiration for writers like Henning Mankell and Steig Larson. Both of whom I love, by the way, but neither of whom have prose as clipped and clean, or books as perfectly plotted, as Sjowall and Wahloo. If you liked the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and I did) then go back to this series, the source of the style, its worth it.
Recommended.

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The BQ(Q) – George

Now this is cool, George ran Boston in 1970, the last time it was possible to do so without qualifying, and qualified the next year with a 3:30. Excited to share this little story from the golden era of running.

 

Name

George

Sex:

Male

Age (at the time of first BQ):

23

Height:

5’8″

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

125 lbs

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Boston

Tell us a little about the race.

My first marathon was Boston, 1970, the last year one could enter Boston without a qualifying time. The qualifying time for the following year was 3:30, no adjustment for age and women were still excluded. I ran conservatively based on advice from experienced marathon runners who had raced a Boston many times and finished strongly in 2:59:50 gun time (no chip timing back then).

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

4 years

Did you run in college or high school?

Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

4000 miles

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

2000 miles

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

35

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

no

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

No

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Perhaps, I strength trained a couple times a week with weight machines

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, Definitely. The core of my training was intervals supplemented with medium to long runs of 12-15 miles. My primary focus was middle distance and short road races, not the marathon.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

In my opinion the focus on 16 week programs is misplaced. The training over the year before the start of the program is what will make the difference.

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The BQ(Q) – John

Name

John

Sex:

Male

Age (at the time of first BQ):

31

Height:

6 Feet 

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

145

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Rock N Roll Arizona 2016

Tell us a little about the race.

Calm wind, 50 degrees at start. Ran even splits, finished at 3:00:01

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

3 years

Did you run in college or high school?

No

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

3000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

Didn’t answer

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

1

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

Yes, Hanson

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

Yes

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, I participate in triathlons

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Sure, I ran fast some days.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Use the Hanson marathon method. Run steady. Run consistent. Don’t push too hard and don’t get injured.

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Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow


Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

I read it. Cover to cover. I was 19 and people said it was a work of genius, so I gave it a go.

Did I understand it? No.

Was it pure hubris to think I could understand one of the pivotal works of this difficult author with no background what so ever? Yeah, possibly.

But I was a kid, so I said fuck it and plowed along. Much of it went over my head, even the plot (such as it is) was difficult to grasp. I knew the writing was beautiful, and some of the jokes amusing, but more than that — it’s hard to say.

Seems silly to even write a review of a book I have to admit I didn’t really understand, but these reviews are about more than the books themselves. They’re about me and where I was when I encountered them.

So there I was, a nineteen year old kid living in Brooklyn, working in a bookstore with fellow bookstore clerks who ran the gambit from barely functioning junkies to PhD in English from Brown. I was desperate to pile as much knowledge and “culture” into my life as I could… and multiple people kept name dropping Pynchon. So I struggled through, on the train, in cafes all in isolation, too embarrassed to admit to anyone that I didn’t really understand much of what I was reading. Laughing occasionally at a joke, but generally just riding along, taking what I could.

When I finished the book some co-workers were eager to discuss it, but I demurred. I’d change the subject, embarrassed by how little I got out of it. It was a silly exercise, from start to finish, and not the last time I’d read something I didn’t understand.

But that was young Sean, eager, often grasping beyond his means. I’ve tempered that as the years have gone on, and I’ve learned (and read) a lot more. I should probably read this one again.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

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Ellison’s Invisible Man


Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

It always feels a bit absurd to review a classic, especially one with the profound emotional and political resonance of Invisible Man. I could leave it at this – you need to read this book – but I’ll say a little more.

I came to Invisible Man with a bit of hesitation. I often feel this way with classics. I’m worried it won’t be as good as described, or that reading it will be a slog. Neither of these fears were justified here. Invisible Man, the story of a black man in America attempting to make his way through a horrific, though often darkly comedic and surreal, world of racist America, is an incredible work of fiction. It is compelling entertaining, and moving. Is it challenging? Emotionally, yes, the horror of race in America is in your face here. Technically, its a brilliantly written, but accessible read. Unlike many classics, the pages turned themselves here.

What else is there to say? Of course you must read it.

Recommended.

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The BQ(Q) – Renee Harden

“If you don’t have the time to put in at least 50 miles a week it is unlikely that you’ll have the endurance to stay strong all the way through the second half.”

I love the bluntness of this response from Renne. Thanks for taking the time to fill this out!

Name

Renee Harden (@Nayenebug)

Sex:

Female

Age (at the time of first BQ):

31

Height:

5’3″

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

95

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Erie Marathon at Presque Isle

Tell us a little about the race.

Log entry: First serious marathon since my 3:52 from Columbus 2005 hardly counts. Tried to go out conservative but found myself clicking of 6:50s early on. Felt pretty good through 22 miles and then started to fall apart. Had to puke a couple of times right before the finish line since the gus were not settling well. Passed one woman to go from 5th to 4th and my only regret is that my second half was not strong enough to pass into 3rd. Hopefully stronger second half next time. Beat my “A” goal time of 3:12 by quite a bit!

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

17 years

Did you run in college or high school?

Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

So many thousands

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

Didn’t answer

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

14

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

No, Track workout, tempo, long run, 50 miles a week

 

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

No

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, open water swimming up to 2 miles a week and daily strength training.

 

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, weekly track workout and tempo run and strides up to three times a week.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Even women who run a 4:30 or so for their first marathon can aim to BQ if their training was rudimentary and mileage was low. Mileage is everything. It matters more than the long runs! If you don’t have the time to put in at least 50 miles a week it is unlikely that you’ll have the endurance to stay strong all the way through the second half.

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The BQ(Q) – JP

Name

JP

Sex:

Male

Age (at the time of first BQ):

36

Height:

6’0″

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

152

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Colorado Marathon

Tell us a little about the race.

Cold, snowed for 15 miles, largely downhill course (drops 1,200′), starting at 6,200′ above sea level, great day, PR by almost 5 minutes, first time breaking 3:10, ran 3:07:15

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

6 years as an adult

Did you run in college or high school?

Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

15,000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

2400

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

6

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

No

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

No

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

I incorporated weight-lifting (squats, lunges, declined calf raises) and I do think it made a difference.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Probably. I PR’d in the 5k (breaking 18) and 10k (37:17) the fall before running the spring marathon

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Carbohydrates are good. I fell into the fat adaptation routine for a couple of years with no luck.

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