Thursday, February 02, 2012

Memory as a Subject in Novels

I have read three novels of later that use memory, or lack there of, as the primary element in a crime novel. In TURN OF MIND (Alice LaPlante), Alzheimer's affects the protagonist. In MEMORY (Westlake), a man is assaulted by his lover's husband and finds his memory diminishing day by day. In BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (Watson), a disturbance has also occurred and leads the protagonist to try and catalog her owm back story.

What other novels use memory as an important element? Or is it a new thing like recovered memories of abuse was in the nineties?

I wonder if the ubiquitous diagnosis of Alzheimers has made this the current trend.


Naomi Johnson said...

R. Scott Bakker's 2011 novel, DISCIPLE OF THE DOG, has a protagonist with total recall, which is in the opposite direction of the books you've named. And in Robert Crais's latest book, one of the minor recurring characters has a photographic memory.

Anonymous said...

I looked this topic up and there were a number of titles, none of which I'd read, as well as a bunch of people who said they'd forgotten.

I've read the Watson, which I think I liked more than you did, and I'm going to read the Westlake next.

Jeff M.

Gerard said...

One of James R. Benn's Billy Boyle novels, Blood Alone, has Boyle recovering from a head injury and memory loss.

Retirement Homes Are Murder by Mike Befeler has a hero who forgets everything whenever he falls asleep. Everything = everything after 2005 or so. There is at least one more book in the series but I have not gotten to it.

Michael Robotham's Lost.

Word verification is "heptic", a hurried hipster.

George said...

You're right about Alzheimer's affecting the type of books (and characters) being written now. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, amnesia functioned as a plot device in the same way.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I bet the Maisie Dobb from Winspear use this a plot point since they they deal with WW I vets.

Anonymous said...

I knew there was another one that I read last year (don't know what it says that it took me so long to find it):

Keith Thomson, Once a Spy. When Charlie Clark loses at the track he thinks Russian mobsters are after him for the money he owes. But his Alzheimers-addled father suddenly hot wires a car and helps them escape. Only then does he discover his father was a former CIA agent and former colleagues aware of his condition and the secrets he has want to eliminate the threat by killing him.

I recommend this one highly.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I also agree on Robotham's LOST.

Jeff M.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Lynn Kostoff"s novel Late Rain deals with a witness to a crime that suffers from Alzheimers. I highly recommend it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved that novel (LATE RAIN). It was just a thrilling read.
I need to read LOST.
ONCE A SPY sounds good too.

Todd Mason said...

There's a reason that Algis Budrys as well as Richard Matheson and Kurt Vonnegut were on the Gold Medal sf/fantasy list at Fawcett, and Budrys's ROGUE MOON (not Budrys's title) is both hardboiled and all about surviving in the memory of others, as well as brilliant and satirical (as James Blish pointed out to his delight, every character in the book is functionally insane). "Remember me to her."

This Proust guy had a few words about the subject as well.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll look for ROGUE MOON.

Gerard said...

Ha! I just followed a link from a different post to Margot Kinggerb's blog and she has a post about Befeler:

Oh, wait. I just read the comments Kingbergs site and you already posted a reply. I'm publishing the comment anyway.