RARA-AVIS: Originality and criticism

Bill Crider (abc@wt.net)
Thu, 22 Apr 1999 12:42:30 -0500 (CDT) Fred Willard makes the point that Shakespeare (whether the Oxford man or the
Stratford man) often stole plots and concepts. In fact, for many years
before and after Shakespeare, imitation was indeed the sincerest form of
flattery. Everyone did it. Go all the way back to the Greek dramatists:
OEDIPUS, one of the first mystery stories, is a steal from other sources, as
are virtually all of the existing Greek plays from that time. The voyages
of Sinbad directly reflect the ODYSSEY. And so on and on. It's only within
the last couple of hundred years that people have come to value originality.

No to relate this to mysteries of the (at least moderately) hard-boiled
sort. I was delighted to see on p. 3 of Lawrence Block's TANNER ON ICE the
following phrase: "a skanky-looking tobbo shop." Why was I pleased?
Because it's almost as if Block (who doesn't know me from Adam's off ox) had
aimed the phrase at me. It's something I've stolen at least twice.
Explanation: Years ago, prior to my publishing any fiction, Block wrote a
column for WRITERS' DIGEST. In that column he mentioned reading the galleys
for one of the Tanner books and running across something about a "tobbo
shop." He had no idea what a tobbo shop was, and in fact he'd written
"tobacco shop," or something like that. But he liked the phrase, so he left
it in, hoping that someday he'd run across it somewhere because someone had
read his book and thought that a tobbo shop was both real and sinister. So
when I was writing house name men's adventure books, I used the phrase in at
least two of them. Block, of course, doesn't know that, but it was fun for
me. Call me a thief if you will

And I apologize for the long post.

Bill Crider

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