RARA-AVIS: Crime Fact, Dead Horses, stealing, Mike Hammer

Fred Willard (fwillard@bellsouth.net)
Fri, 23 Apr 1999 15:01:44 -0400 I just got a call from a friend telling me there is a National Security
Council spokesman named Mike Hammer. We can all sleep better at night.

Regarding hard boiled fiction drawn from fact:

>From: Kevin Smith <kvnsmith@colba.net>
>Speaking of theft, coincidentally, there's a woman who's contacted me (I'm
>not sure why-I guess because of my site) who claims to be suing Dick
>Francis over what she claims is the theft of her life story in his Sid
>Halley novel, COME TO GRIEF, of a few years ago.

What I find interesting is crime novels that anticipate events. I'm sure
there are plenty examples of this because there are only so many twists on

One example (not hard boiled) is LeCarre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
which anticipated the revelation of the fourth man in the Kim Philby spy ring.

I've had people ask how I knew about a certain crime or criminal that I
had, in fact, never heard of. I simply understood enough about how someone
might do something to describe a crime which had actually taken place
without knowing about it.

I think it would be interesting to relate hard boiled novels to actual
cases which might have inspired them as well as novels that may have
anticipated crimes.

Regarding negative reviews: (Sorry for the snips, but it's a long post.

>From: Mari Hall <found.dead.in.texas@airmail.net>
>Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Negative comments (was; Steals)
>> > to warn via the subject line that a negative review is enclosed.
>> >
>> Since I just posted some comments very critical of a
>> contemporary book, this struck home. I don't know whether Fred
>However, although it is no fun to see your book trashed, I think anyone
>who reads owes it to the rest of us to post what they "think".

No problem with this. My point being that in print it's generally easy to
have an agent or friend screen reviews. It's much harder to do that in a
mailing list.

I don't have a clear answer, but I wanted to raise the question and see if
there was any consensus. It may just be that a list which comments on books
is never going to be an entirely safe place for writers. So it goes. I'm
sure we'll all survive.

>From: M-T <matrxtech@sprintmail.com>
>A few weeks ago, I heard about a recent lawsuit by Faye Kellerman,
>alleging that Tom Stoppard and another screenwriter stole a story from
>one of her novels. Does anyone know about the merits of her case?

No idea on the merits of the case, but I heard it was a novel that had
similarities to "Shakespeare in Love."

I think one of the reasons I reacted so strongly to the word "theft" is
that plagiarism _is_ theft, but not all use of common themes is plagiarism.

>Regarding stealing, Bach was another notorious lifter. Greatness is not
>always the same as originality.
Right. From my point of view, modernism has some wildly romantic views of
"original artists / original ideas." It's an irony that the same modernist
sensibility that supported literary minimalism and other basic foundations
of hard boiled literature also gave birth to this genre with its cynical
view of things ever being different.

>Regarding Woolley's blow-by-blow analysis of Teran's first eight
>paragraphs, I wonder how, say, Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy would survive
>such a scrutiny. I know, I'm just wanting to make trouble. Spring is
>finally here, I think

I think that's the general problem of line editing / close reading. The
more refined your judgement becomes, the more almost everything you read
seems to have problems. It can drive you crazy.

I'm going to unsubscribe for the time being while I work on more fiction
people can feel free to write negative reviews about. In the meantime, I
can be reached by email.

Down on Ponce a novel by Fred Willard
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