Re: RARA-AVIS: K. C. Constantine

Mario Taboada (
Tue, 31 Mar 1998 15:00:37 +0000 [regarding John Woolley's disappointment in the first Constantine]

It's entirely possible that this author is not for you - he is not at
all like Chandler, Cain, Thompson, etc. More likely one could argue an
affinity with writers like John O'Hara and Erskine Caldwell (perhaps
also with Simenon, now that I think about it).

Whatever they are, the Balzic (now Carlucci) books are not mysteries in
the traditional sense, let alone "police procedurals". Balzic follow no
"procedure", is no hero, is only as honest as he can be (which means, he
dodges the law frequently), and doesn't always or even frequently
"solve" his cases.

So one could ask in what sense Constantine's work is "genre writing"
(and if so, what is the genre?). His writing is remarkably free of the
cliches of the crime genre. Most of his effort goes into
characterization, atmosphere, and dialogue. The crimes are more than
incidental but not exactly central to his books. An extreme example of
this is the wonderfully weird "Bottom Liner Blues", in which an aging
Balzic doesn't even try very hard to do anything about the possibly
criminal doings he investigates (so to speak).

I like Constantine for the same reasons I adore Norbert Davis:
unconventional use of the genre (mockery in the case of Davis; an excuse
to tell stories about a typical American small town, in the case of
Constantine); perfect control of timing and language; surprises that are
not "prefabricated" as in most mysteries; an eye for unusual crimes and

I suggest "The man who liked slow tomatoes" and "Joey's Case" to John;
perhaps he'll develop a taste for K.C. Granted, we don't all like the
same things, so I may end up in John's shit list for eternity. Caveat

Best regards to all, and please excuse the verbosity that crept in (did
I really write that? Hell, I really should retire...)

Mario Taboada
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