RARA-AVIS: Re: HB nonfiction, or Raymond Chandler Reviews The Spice Girls

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Wed, 1 Jul 1998 11:14:46 -0500 >Here's an example, I think, of hard-boiled nonfiction: Nick Tosches'
>biography of Dean Martin, "Dino". I haven't read the whole thing yet, but
>it's a pretty unflinching look at Martin's private side, the story behind
>that public persona of the lovable lush that marked most of his later
>career. Unfortunately, the prose is fairly purple in passages, which
>detracts a bit from its hard-boiledness. But I think it's a good candidate
>to use as a starting point.

Haven't read the Dean Martin book but I remember reading Tosche's columns
and reviews in Creem magazine back in the eighties, back when it mattered.
Creem was (and might still be, somewhere out there) a rock'n'roll mag with
an in-your-face 'tude, and a sacred vow to take the piss out of about
everything pretentious, which seemed to include every musician they ever
covered. What it all boiled down to was some of the best writers in
rock'n'roll writing passionately about what really mattered in rock'n'roll.
No fashion spreads, no ads for cologne, no cover page stories on the
publisher's jet set buddies. One of the young turks at the time was
Tosches, who wrote the regular reviews and interviews, and also kicked in a
column on forgotten heroes of rock'n'roll. More impressionist than
biographical, they were the real deal, and he peppered them with right-on
similes and metaphors like he was Chandler's bastard son. I still remember
him writing about Wanda Jackson, a rockabilly singer who sang like "you
could fry an egg on her G-spot." I think these columns were later collected
in a book, and I do know that he wrote a great book in the same style about
Jerry Lee Lewis, called, I think, Hellfire. It reads like a Jim Thompson
rewrite of Goodis' Shoot the Piano Player.

Forget Kinky Friedman as a private eye, I wanna see Jerry Lee kicking down
doors and takin' down names...Ellroy did it for Dick Contino; now let's see
him take on the Killer!

(actually, didn't Tosches write a crime novcel a few years back, something
about Chinese gangs and drugs?)

In fact, a lot of rock writers in the seventies and eighties, and even
today, display an attitude that could certainly be called hardboiled. The
offbeat metaphors and similies, the terse cynicism, the hyperbole, the
preoccupation with deflating pumped up pretensions. Lester Bangs, Tosches,
Charles M. Young, early Dave Marsh, Paul Nelson, Marcus Greil (who raved
about The Last Good Kiss), Robert Christgau and others seemed to have all
spent a bit of time soaking up old Bogie movies and Chandler novels...

I dunno why this is all coming back to me....maybe it's that I'm reading
Pelecanos' A Firing Offense, and it's one of the first times I've come
across rock'n'roll mentioned in a P.I. novel where it comes out
right...Pelecanos says at one point that "The Long Ryders sound like The
Eagles, but with testicles..." (Which is pretty dead-on)...I wonder if he
spent some of his formulative years with his nose buried in Creem, too...

Let's face it-having all these modern day, thirty and forty-something P.I.s
listening to jazz is anachronistic...it's comparable to having them wear
fedoras. Yes, some 30, 40 year-olds listen to jazz (there'll be a couple of
hundred thousand of 'em on the streets of Montreal soon for the jazz fest),
but most of 'em will go home and tune in to some radio station that plays

Oh, and as for the "young whippersnappers" crack, I just did that cos I was
starting to sound like an old fart...

Kevin Smith
The Thrilling Detective Web Site

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