RARA-AVIS: All Ross' children are out there, playing his licks...

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Sun, 7 Mar 1999 15:20:11 -0500 Mario wrote:

>If you read my post carefully, you will see that one paragraph is by
>Kevin (who cited Crais and Parker originally) and the other one is mine.
>There is no contradiction.

Yep, I agree. It's usually tough enough figuring out what I'm trying to say
(because half the time I'm thinking out loud) without mixing my stuff in
with Mario's. While he and I may disagree on Macdonald's relative influence
on Parker and Crais, I think his excellent post is well worth re-reading.
And I agree that Macdonald's influence hasn't always been beneficial, and
some of his takes on my examples have really given me something to think


One of the most Macdonaldesque things Crais wrote was, I think, ironically
enough, his short story in the RAYMOND CHANDLER'S PHILIP MARLOWE
collection. But the influence of Macdonald is there in much of Crais and
Parker's work; the concern for the lost and the damaged, and the hidden
sins of the past infecting the present. Crais' upcoming L.A. REQUIEM deals,
at least partially, with the repercussions of child abuse, and much of
Parker's Spenser series, particularly the earlier books, concern themselves
with the salvation of damaged, discarded kids. That their sometimes very
un-Archer-like solutions may sometimes depend on very un-Archer-like
sidekicks doesn't, in my mind, negate Macdonald's influence. And both Crais
and Spenser are good enough writers, I think, to rise above their
influences (or at least, can be good enough writers--it's hard, sometimes,
to stand up for Parker these days).

It's interesting, too, that both Grafton and Paretsky have been brought up
in our discussion of Macdonald and his influence on the genre. In some
ways, Macdonald, by introducing a sort of liberal (or maybe leftish?)
mindset of tolerance and compassion, and empathy for the innocent, opened
up the genre, and paved the way for the thirty-two flavors of eyes we now

I do think that Macdonald represents a crucial point in the hardboiled
detective novel, as does Mickey Spillane. It seems to me that Spillane and
Macdonald (the anti-Hammer, if you will) represented a fork in the road. If
much of modern detective fiction can be traced back to Chandler, I'd
suggest that much, if not most of it also passes through Macdonald on its
way there. Surely it's easier to see the path between V.I. or Kinsey to
Marlowe when Archer's sitting there.

Which begs the question: when is it Hammer Time? While there were once tons
of imitators, and some sly reworkings of Hammer in the fifties and sixties,
the legacy now seems to be found mostly in men's adventure books; a very
small handful of contemporary eyes (maybe Collins' Nate Heller and
Estelman's Amos Walker); and in characters such as Mouse and Hawk and Clete
Purcel and Joe Pike, in books that generally, owe more, in their thematic
concerns, to Archer, rather than Hammer.

Influences are tricky things.

Kevin Smith
The Thrilling Detective Web Site

Now out: The February issue, with fiction from Robert Iles and Leigh Brackett,
and Face the Face, our new contest for fans of paperback eyes.! Yippy!

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