It’s a universal fact that we all carry secrets, whether they be frivolous pieces of gossip or deeper, darker truths. Within detective fiction, one becomes privy to all sorts of skeletons hidden at the back of the closet. Indeed, the almighty thrill of the genre is, as Sherlock Holmes might say, the power of deduction. The author lays out all of the clues and we, as readers, use our intellectual prowess to try and figure out whodunnit. Such storytelling is what brings us back again and again to the same novels, taking a magnifying glass to that overlooked shred of evidence, the secret passageway, which makes everything oh-so satisfyingly fall into place. When sex arises in this cerebral world, it does so tantalisingly: a bloody crime passionnel, a seductress with an ulterior motive who attempts to entice our enigmatic sleuth. Consider the archetypal investigator: a mysterious and brooding character, about which we are frequently told almost nothing. Their passion for solving crime is pursued with all-consuming rigour, an obsessive bent that burns at the heart of detective stories. This is evident at the birth of the genre that began with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Man of the Crowd (1840), in which a nameless narrator, beset by a compulsive urge, follows a stranger through the streets of London. From Victorian England to the biting cold of present-day Scandinavia. Nordic noir’s best-selling, many-hundred-page volumes contain stylistic rape revenge fantasy, girls with dragon tattoos and underdog policewomen. Or perhaps a cosy Agatha Christie novel is more your taste? Christie’s beloved protagonists, such as the unassuming, elderly Miss Marple and crème de menthe-sipping Poirot are notoriously chaste, yet their investigative intensity will set your heart aflutter. The detective story is critical to the zeitgeist of today, where pulpy true-crime series blossom on podcast feeds and are serialised into gritty television dramas. This media is often regarded as a guilty pleasure, but here at Extra Extra, we believe that no indulgence can possibly be characterised so.
HOMME FATALE 1
Good afternoon, it’s Maxim Jakubowski, I’m calling from London. As a crime novelist and critic, it’s hard to narrow down from my favourite erotic noirs. I recently got carried away by Homme Fatale. Set in modern-day hot and sultry Hollywood, Manson hires Ursula, an ex-porn star who loves reading Charlotte Brontë. He believes she is the woman dressed in black, a haunting silhouette who was spotted pulling a dead girl’s body along a hallway. As they fall in love, the sexual obsession goes as far as to involve a bunch of steamy murders. If you like Hitchcock, it truly feels like Vertigo (1958), with more explicit sex!
EVIL COMPANIONS 2
In the late 60s, the wave of pornographic crime narratives, enabled by the expansion of pulp publishing, featured a litany of iconic and provocative characters. Evil Companions is one of those dark jewels, exploring the boundaries between fantasy and reality, presenting a hard-boiled critique of what was sexually forbidden in 1960s American society. A couple discovers their sensual and spiritual awakening by tearing down social and religious sex taboos. This novel shows how terror lies at the heart of sensuality. To help us escape our individual dourness, evil is necessary.
PANIC STRAP 3
Beautifully crafted words and sentences can feel like wine upon the lips. So it’s even sexier when such drunkenness leads to the sinuous roads of suspense. Carly Tyler is ready for everyone to find out who tried to murder her when she was seventeen. In the Napa Valley, she starts working in a winery – owned by the man she suspects – and embarks on a BDSM relationship with him. In this literary pathological thriller, I love to read how a submissive can be more in control of the situation, as Carly definitely pulls the strings.
Hi! Russell Williams speaking. As a scholar of French literature, I enjoy a somewhat dark interpretation of the erotic. Thierry Jonquet, the godfather of the 1990s French crime novel scene was known for weaving anti-establishment politics into his page-turners. Here, three creepy stories intertwine: a kidnapped woman, a malefactor on the run and a motorcyclist pursued by a mysterious vehicle. The narrative immerses one entirely – we feel lost in the plot and, when we start to understand, it’s too late to back down.
THE BIG NOWHERE 5
Oh, James Ellroy – the self-branded ‘demon dog’ of contemporary American crime fiction – is an overlooked master of the erotic. He captures a distinctively frenzied male desire – one often fuelled by obsession and hard drugs. The Big Nowhere is the second in his quartet of LA novels. Deputy Sheriff Danny Upshaw investigates a grizzly serial sex murderer, holding the reader suffocatingly close as he is overtaken by his interest in the case that awakens him to uncomfortable truths about his own sexuality.
THE DEMON 6
How are you? It’s John Jefferson Selve. I was wondering … What if the metaphysical quest that lurks behind each thriller, turns out to be embodied, carnally? In Selby’s shattered and resplendent prose, you feel the assassin within you; his inordinate urges echoing into thoughts in your head. The famous first lines set the uncanny tone of the novel: ‘His friends called him Harry the Lover. But Harry would not screw just anyone. It had to be a woman … a married woman.’
When Baise-moi was released, I was twenty years old, and it felt like a knife in the heart. Finally, the meteoric point of view of women was set ablaze in broad daylight. On a ramped-up road trip through provincial France, Manu and Nadine exploit, abuse and ultimately punish male desire. It’s a true revenge parody of the noir genre, with tongue-in-cheek staccato, punk sex, injected with a heavy dose of porn, violence and politics. The book is afraid of nothing, shaking what needs to be shaken!
THE THIRD POLICEMAN 8
Hi there, it’s Alex Cecchetti. In my art installations, I’m really inspired by the structure of detective fiction. One of my favourites is The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, aka Brian O’Nola. Imagine a young man, afflicted with a wooden leg, who commits a botched robbery, a brutal murder – and the day after, has a philosophical debate with the old man he killed. I laughed so much reading this wacky book where imagination rules as the sexiest thing on earth, which, by the way, in this universe is sausage-shaped, and filled with twisted-minded policemen and oh … you will never forget the notorious bicycle sex scene!
Hello there, this is David Maroto. I’m so thrilled to read more and more artists’ novels these days. Questioning the conventions of the detective novel, each chapter of Crimeways is written by a different author or artist, including photographer Nick Briggs, the model for David Hemmings’ character in the 1966 Antonioni film Blow-Up. Discover New York under siege by an underground band of aesthetic criminals, who threaten to destroy a landmark in the name of art. One of my favourite chapters is by former gay porn writer Jack Pretzer, denoted by its unforgettable torrid passages.
Good morning, it’s Jo Aurelio Giardini. The modern gothic LOTE by Shola von Reinhold will blow your mind. Mathilda devotes herself to uncovering the disappeared presence of Hermia Druitt, a black lesbian modernist whose work has been removed from circulation. Employing both Wildean wit and baroque intellect, this delightfully erotic novel shows how sexual tension can be enacted through the power-laden play of identities and is not only what one does in a bedroom. Reinhold gives a sense of how to explore the mysteries of desire, speculating about a future in which sex becomes truly, transcendently satisfying.