Re: RARA-AVIS: Early Westlake

MT (
Wed, 13 Jan 1999 09:46:17 -0500 Duane:

<<That's a kind of rambling preamble to the thought that prompted this
post. Actually, what I really want to hear your opinions about was this
-- is there a mass audience for new hardboiled novels? True, people like
Vacchs and Mad Dog Elroy sell lots of copies; but there are lots of
crime books by lesser-known writers out there, many of them being
overlooked. Whadda ya think?>>

I don't think there is anything like a mass audience for hardboiled
novels. Some people have achieved recognition thanks to the movies
(Elmore Leonard, for example) but for the vast majority of mystery
readers (who read cozies or romance crossover, let's face it) Westlake,
Mosley, Block, Crumley, Ellroy, Burke, and so on are almost unknown. We
hardboiled dogs may think that these guys are giants, but we hardly
represent the book-buying public. I bet Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins
Clark outsell all of the above, all the time.

For me, hardboiled fiction is a bit like jazz. It has a small but
devoted audience that values quality, but the big sales are mostly in
the crossover variety. There is something implicit in what I said above,
and I should make it explicit: hardboiled writers are usually far better
writers than authors of cozies. For one thing, hardboiled follows a
tradition of great writers like Hammett, Whitfield, Chandler, Howard
Browne, Chester Himes, Fredric Brown, Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson,
John D. MacDonald, many of the Gold Medal guys that we always rave
about, and so on. You might say that the qualifications for writing
hardboiled are quite a bit higher than for writing a garden-variety
romance mystery. Just my opinion. Now to get some coffee before this
rant becomes a speech.


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