Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This King Business

I am a giant-sized Dashiell Hammett fan. Just so you know, and aren't surprised by future posts showing current events through the prism of his writings.

I'm currently reading a collection of his short stories and assorted writings put out by the Library of America. Many gems there.... Most of these are crime stories, written in first person narrative, which involve his archetypal character The Continental Op. The Op character has been transplanted into other genres, including Akira Kurosawa's character played by Toshiro Mifune in the movies Yojimbo and Sanjuro. The character is further reprised by Clint Eastwood in the "Fistful of Dollars" spaghetti westerns, "The Man with No Name" in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Willis in "Last Man Standing", Byrne in "Millers Crossing", etc.. Like those characters, The Op is a brilliantly effective, but amoral manipulator by method, who maintains a strong core morality which drives him to his goal.

But the story I just read which struck me with its current significance is "This King Business". It revolves around an immature, adventurous young trust-funder who strays into political intrigue in the Balkins, and The Op's manipulations to protect the young man from himself and the political players who seek to defraud and kill him. However, what strikes me as current has nothing to do with The Op in this story, it has to do with another character.... One of the characters in the story, is xxx the President of Murovia (the fictional country where the story is set). He is a brilliant and well-known scientist, the pride of Murovia, who is installed as president when Murovia first becomes independant due to the universal esteem in which he is held. However, he is a political naif, and what the elites know and he does not is that he is merely a figurehead, with the real power being held by his vice-president, a General and chief of the army. The General is moderate and widely respected, but has a clash with the President where he spills the beans. At this point the President tries to marginalize the VP, however, he is so politically hopeless that he is completely manipulated by his own secretary, who praises and strokes the ego of the President while at the same time subverting him. In this way the Secretary becomes the defacto head of state. Meanwhile, the young trust-funder is suckered into thinking he is competent enough to be King of the country, and is part of a plot (with the Secretary and some Generals) to overthrow the President. But even though he is being suckered, at least he is bright enough to know that he wouldn't yeild any real power, he only doesn't realize they will take his money and assasinate him....

I'm not sure how clear the current parallels are to anyone else, but....

1 comment:

Kyria said...

You write very well.