Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Thu, 23 Dec 1999 08:44:32 -0400

>- --- James Rogers <jetan@ionet.net> wrote:
>> For Malzberg in a really vicious mode, all pulp
>> and sf fans must read
>> _Herovit's World_, where a pulp hack (Herovit)
>> slowly descends into
>> alcoholism and madness, his personalitly first being
>> replaced by his
>> pen-name and finally by his series hero....both of
>> whom turn out to be just
>> as alcoholic and ineffectual as he is.

And Etienne wrote:
>...this sounds exactly like the second half of Robert
>Parker's life and Spenser taking over!!
>(Sorry, I couldn't resit!)

Why? Someone steal your chair? Anyway, I digress....

Sounds exactly like? If you wanna talk about writers who eventually grew alcoholic and ineffectual, Hammett might be a far better example than Parker. And Chandler had the hots for Marlowe in a way that probably outshines Parker's affection for his own hero.

Granted, I know less than Etienne seems to know about the second half of Parker's life (alcoholism?), but still.... Like it or not, Parker's still kicking, and still producing honest work, even if it doesn't meet everybody's high standards. A pulp hack? Sheesh!

But Etienne raises a valid point about series characters. There's always the danger, particularly in first person-narrated series, with the hero's identity meshing with that of the writer, a deception encouraged by the authors themselves. And it's certainly nothing new. Check out the author photos of Ken Millar sporting a fedora on the backs of his paperbacks, or Spillane starring as Hammer in a flick. Or, yes, Parker posing in baseball cap and sneakers, with dog, about the time a dog was introduced into the series.

Certainly, the public persona of several authors and their series detectives have blurred, and more than one writer could be accused of falling in love with their heroes. Think of the long valentine to Marlowe that Chandler passed off as part of the essay THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER.

Most series, after a while, lose their steam because the author has grown enamored of their hero, and started to gloss over the rough bits that made the character so appealing in the first place. And, of course, when a series becomes commercially successful, there's far less room to maneuver. Which is what makes Crais' L.A. REQUIEM or Block's EVERYBODY DIES such brave works, from a monetary standpoint. The dilemma of series characters, and the traps of success, are favorite themes of Stephen King's, by the way. Think MISERY or THE DARK HALF.

Writers grow older, want to settle down. If they've identified with their characters, those characters will start to grow older and settle down, too. It's natural. But it's one reason many readers prefer non-series characters.

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ It's Time for the 1999 Cheap Thrills P.I. Poll! Vote now! Vote often!

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Thu 23 Dec 1999 - 10:41:43 EST