At the beginning of Alexander McCall Smith’s short story “No Place to Park,” a literary critic addresses a broad trend in the crime fiction genre. Specifically, he takes issue with the gratuitous violence that has become commonplace in crime novels. He proposes giving all the murder and gore a break and focusing instead on nonviolent crimes that have the potential to be just as exciting.
It is only after this premise is introduced that readers meet the writer George Harris, whose experiences quickly dominate the story. Topically, this narrative shift represents a change from the broad (a panel within a large writing conference) to the specific (the thoughts and feelings of Harris as he plans out his next book). We also experience a sharp change in the tone of the story. Once readers enter George Harris’s orbit, the tone becomes more personal. The narrative discloses details about the writer’s life, from his surfing habit to his opinions on ticketing farmers for traffic violations. As the narrator’s voice is heard less, the story becomes more character-driven, not just by George but also by the people in his life—for instance, his girlfriend, the traffic cop he shadows, and even the killer in his erstwhile surfing murder.