Every now and then you come across an old movie and you just have to stick with it...for one reason or another. The other night it was "The Laughing Policeman" from 1973. It is a gritty police story filmed in San Francisco. I get a kick out of movies filmed in places I am familiar with, trying to place where they are and all. Laughing at the technology of the seventies (or the lack thereof) and how "things have changed". But beyond that, the story of "The Laughing Policeman" has a special value to me. It was loosely based on a book written by a Swedish couple, Per Wahloo and his wife, Maj Sjowall. The special connection I have to them is only that I read all of their books and was inspired by their objective.
For ten years between 1965 and 1975, they wrote ten books about the Homocide squad of the Swedish state police. The central character was Martin Beck. The first book in the series, "Roseanna" introduced the squad with its quirky characters and their personal situations. For ten years they chronicled the growth and changes of this squad. Like real life, some move on, some die, some new faces show up, divorces happen, kids get in trouble, alcohol ravages some, a little weed pops up and some get promoted to the top ranks of the Swedish police. The stories were police fare at its best, but the reflections on the societal changes, the differences in attitudes and public morals, the overall effect of socialism on Sweden were the real meat...and the real intent...of the book series.
Per and Maj were devoted Marxists so it seems strange that they would be so critical of a socialist society. But they saw what socialism was doing to the structures of Swedish life and angrily wrote it all out as the backdrop to all those books. That was their goal and they accomplished it admirably. The thing that was inspiring to me was that it wasn't writing history, but a year to year examination of what IS at that time and space. It made for totally involving fiction. I decided that I could do the same thing, well...not about Sweden, 'cause I ain't Swedish...but about the Army and American society and its growth and changes. An evolving perspective, almost a real-time examination of what was going on in our world. Ten books in ten years. That was their goal. Per died in 1975, just before the last book, "The Terrorist" was released.
So I decided my series would chonicle the changes in American societal attitudes over a period of FORTY years! Or Fifty.
Anyway, if you find one, try it...it is good stuff. And the movies are a gas.