Re: RARA-AVIS: Fashion Rules!

a.n.smith (
Sat, 6 Nov 1999 16:48:25 -0600

Replying to the fashion things and the Atlantic "Soft-Boiled" article, I have to say that while I like my detectives hard-boiled, I don't like them to be blank slates. Much agreed that JL Burke, Block, Parker, etc., all have softened their characters into mushy psycho-babble that goes down well with 90s mainstream TV news talk. But when picking on Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane, John Harvey, be careful. Same with Pelecanos' Nick Stefanos. These are guys just as hard-boiled, but also so contemporary, they don't sound the way "detectives are supposed to."

This ain't the 30s. Or 40s, or 50s. I read Chandler through a different lens, now. I read Hammett and Cain that way. And I love these writers. But I am very interested in the writers who are exploring the hard-boiled detective idea and making it new, contemporary. Somewhere, Amos Walker started sounding silly and old fashioned. And there's too much good to the idea to let it to a slow leak--same language, style, worldview, treatment of the other gender (depending) --until there's nothing left.

Make it new. Don't talk to me about AA and the horrors of violence and the wonders of monogamy. It was cute when first done. But the world change, people change, detectives change. Those are the ones I want to read. Not
"booze, dames, and my powder blue suit." Except when reading stuff written when it really was that.

And see also Motherless Brooklyn. This one dives head into the language of detective novels--language *period*, actually--in a way that makes you think about maybe hard-boiled went and got soft on us without changing one word.

That's 2 cents, Neil Smith

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