Re: RARA-AVIS: I have seen the future . . .

M-T (
Thu, 27 May 1999 22:40:48 -0500 [on Ned Fleming's interesting post]

I don't think that classic hardboiled writing was ever meant to be
shocking; rather, it was a form of naturalism and a window into a less
cut-and-dried world than that presented by the garden-variety
traditional mystery or puzzle. You don't need psychos like Lecter in
order to tell an interesting hardboiled story. Every day, in every city,
there are real stories that would make for good hardboiled fiction
material. Many of these stories involve ordinary people in strange

What is worrisome is that some authors impose hardboiled packaging on
stories that are either imitative of the classics (wisecracking PIs,
Chandlerisms galore, etc.) or are mere sketches for movie deals.

I don't think that hardboiled crime writing has a bright future (it
hasn't had a bright present for a long time...), but I do think that
more and more it will be sold and viewed as "mainstream"* literature. In
a sense, this is an advantage, for by casting off the "genre" label it
can bring paying** readers who are not mystery fans. Writers like Walter
Mosley, Kent Anderson, James Sallis, and Teri White, for example, have
an appeal that goes well beyond the typical thriller-writer. They invest
heavily in characterization and downplay (or avoid entirely) the cliché³¼br> of the genre. I would like to think that the future of hardboiled crime
belongs to this kind of writer and not to the rehashers.

Regards, and apologies for the length of this.


* A word I detest, but it is the appropriate one here.

** On the subject of non-paying readers (i.e., library patrons) and
their effect on the writer's kitty, I refer the reader to several
persuasive if rather drunken-sounding rants by Panagios Valcanas on
Usenet groups.
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