Re: RARA-AVIS: Early Westlake

Mark Sullivan (
Wed, 13 Jan 1999 20:00:37 -0500 Mario wrote:

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.

I've never met a jazz fan who doesn't have pride in his refined taste
(no offense, Mario, I can be as bad or worse about punk or post-punk),
who isn't a bit of an elitist about his/her taste. And I would lay odds
that many (most?) of us on this list feel much the same way about
hardboiled fiction. We would probably be a bit disappointed if our
faves were hugely popular and famous, if everybody read them. Sure,
it's a huge problem that publishers don't publish more of our genre,
that great books, even entire series (as we found when looking for the
Matt Helm books) have gone out of print. But I'd hazard a guess that
for many of us, that amazing find in a used bookstore, yard sale or flea
market is almost as big a thrill as reading the book itself.

Now as any good cultural studies believer knows, taste has a large
correlation with various socio-economic indicators. Or, as Tad Allagash
said in Bright Lights Big City, "Taste, after all, is a matter of
taste." Still, I'm enough of an elitist, or bohemian, or whatever, to
be happy that my taste is apart (and in my secret heart, this cultural
relativist must admit to himself, above) from those of the teeming


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