- The relentlessly peeved detective
The relentlessly peeved detective is peeved with everyone and everything. He (and overwhelmingly he still is a he) doesn’t like his bosses and doesn’t like his colleagues. He doesn’t like children (which is why he’s never had any), and he especially doesn’t like his ex-wife (the bitch). He dislikes police procedures. He dislikes social workers. He dislikes delicatessens and vegetarians and art cinema. He even dislikes the things he chooses to do in every chapter. For instance, he insists on playing the radio in his car even though he’s relentlessly peeved with what counts for music these days. He drinks cup after cup of bitter, tepid coffee. He drinks more booze than he should do but always in a dump of a pub where the beer ‘tastes like watery p*ss’. Presumably there is another pub nearby that serves Peroni, but that pub is full of vegetarians talking about art cinema. Can he find no beauty in the world? No kindness in strangers? Ah, here comes the implausibly attractive love interest. After fixating on her nipples for two chapters, he solves the crime and by the end of the novel has developed a grudging respect for the token gay character. He has also learned that not all women are such awful bitches as his ex-wife. He still hates vegetarians.
Because the relentlessly peeved detective is so relentlessly peeved, he spends a lot of time sighing. The sighing is contagious. The victim’s mother sighs as she shows the peeved detective a photograph of the deceased. The Chief Inspector sighs when the peeved detective throws a cup of tepid coffee against the wall. Being a woman, the implausibly attractive love interest sighs in a brighter and perkier way: she sighs in motherly admonishment when the relentlessly peeved detective becomes violently peeved at a foreign film; she sighs in pleasure when he fixates on her nipples. Over the course of the novel, enough wind is produced to shift the Gulf Stream.
- The word ‘whilst’
Despite being so peeved, the relentlessly peeved detective, or his author, sometimes has recourse to this pompous variant of ‘while’. There’s very little I agree with Martin Amis about, but I’m with him when he says that ‘anyone who uses “whilst” is subliterate.’
D.D. Johnston’s crime thriller, The Secret Baby Room, will be published by Barbican Press in July 2015. He runs the http://onlinewritingtips.com website and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire.