Damien Seaman | Why Rebus is Batman

Why Rebus is Batman: the 6 obvious signs
By Damien Seaman

When it comes to the dubious distinction of ‘gritty realism’, no pop culture product is safe from the label. Yes, I’m looking at you, Harry Potter series. They even tried to grit-up Superman, the idiots.

In the world of contemporary crime fiction, gritty realism is the unquestioned dogma. Take Ian Rankin. He’s had some less than glowing things to say about the work of Agatha Christie in the past, one of his key moans being the lack of said grit in her country house mysteries. Which is a bit like disliking cats for being unable to bark.

‘Gritty realism’ is a lie because all fiction is a kind of fantasy, and Inspector John Rebus is no more real a character than Batman. The essential reason is simple: Rebus cannot die. That makes him a super hero. End of. Even Poirot died in the end, putting him above Rebus in the reality stakes.

But why is Rebus Batman, you ask? Obviously he couldn’t be Spiderman: that would just be ridiculous. But if you remain unconvinced, then read on for the six obvious signs. Go on. I dare you to disagree with me after this…

Batman
1.Miserable loner haunted by ghosts of the past that compel him to put himself in harm’s way, sometimes for no logical reason (other than plot).
2.Cultivates reputation of a ‘detective’ despite being a miserable loner unable to work as part of a team for long, other than with long-suffering sidekick.
3.Due to alleged conscience and reasons of mainstream popularity, is unable to kill anyone except by accident. (Is allowed to beat the shit out of super villains though.)
4.Since 1980s has been depicted in terms of occasionally laughable ‘gritty realism’ to lend frisson of danger to pampered readership.
5.Despite having no superpowers to speak of (besides disgusting, monopolising wealth), being in the thick of the action and braving almost certain death in every adventure he has, HE CAN NEVER DIE.
6.Has never been seen in the same room as Inspector John Rebus.

Inspector John Rebus
1.Miserable loner haunted by ghosts of the past that compel him to put himself in harm’s way, sometimes for no logical reason (other than plot).
2.Cultivates reputation of a ‘detective’ despite being a miserable loner unable to work as part of a team for long, other than with long-suffering sidekick.
3.Due to alleged devotion to public service, actual risk of losing job, and eventual mainstream popularity, is unable to kill anyone except by accident – unless he wants the PCC on his ass. (Oh, and the PPC isn’t so hot on the whole beating the shit out of suspects thing either, but there are ways and means when the plot demands it.)
4.Since 1980s has been depicted in terms of occasionally laughable ‘gritty realism’ to lend frisson of danger to pampered readership.
5.Despite having no superpowers to speak of (not even wealth), being in the thick of the action and braving almost certain death in every adventure he has, HE CAN NEVER DIE.
6.Has never been seen in the same room as Batman.

About the author:
Damien Seaman’s first novel ‘The Killing of Emma Gross’, a police procedural set in Weimar Germany, is out now from Blasted Heath http://www.blastedheath.com

Review | The Killing of Emma Gross by Damien Seaman

The Killing of Emma Gross
by Damien Seaman
Pub: Blasted Heath

It’s Dusseldorf and Peter Kurten is about to give himself up to Thomas Klein. He claims he is the serial killer known as the Ripper. Thomas has several problems, the largest of which may be Ritter, a superior officer with a personal grudge against Klein and the whose case this is supposed to be. He needs to know if Kurten really is the Ripper, what happened to the last little girl he took and what it is about Emma Gross that doesn’t quite fit.

I can sum this one up pretty quickly. It’s grubby and rough. In more detail, Seaman captures the grey drudgery of a city in depression along with the violence and corruption of the age and the police. The use of occasional but consistent German along with his feel for the country holds the reader in place and the characters are, frankly, all thoroughly unlike-able, but none the less compelling and it is possible to empathise even while appalled by the choices they make. By the end of the novel I found myself even sympathising with Tom and feeling his frustration.

The prologue kicks the whole book off with a short sharp shock and then the first chapter throws you right into to a novel that is a well written, rapidly paced, gripping procedural. The book doesn’t really revolve around the Ripper, like all the best procedural’s it’s about the detective, Klein and in this case very much about Ritter too and of course, the killing of Emma Gross.

I expect to hear a great deal more from this author, partly because he has a series of articles running here on unbound over the next couple of months, but also because it really is an excellent and deliciously dark crime novel. Seriously though, grubby and rough.