RARA-AVIS: Blown away

From: Martha Pennigar ( msmartha@earthlink.net)
Date: 01 Jan 2000

Chiming in late here with my list. It's tough limiting it to 5 authors, so I'm going to leave out Hammett and Chandler and Cain and Woolrich because, well, that's almost a list already.

Richard Stark Michael Connelly James Lee Burke Don Winslow Laurell K. Hamilton

Actually, I don't know if Winslow would be considered totally hard-boiled, sometimes you might laugh too much reading him, particularly the Neal Carey books. He is, however, the kind of author who can leave you chuckling one minute and gasping the next. Laurell, as I've said before, has created and sustained a tough, hard-boiled character and shows no signs of stopping, so she's an excellent example of a woman writer right now who's doing this kind of series. I agree that Woolrich isn't really HB either, but as someone who turned over a rock and exposed a twilight world of strange and bad behavior for me at a young age, I'd have to cite him. To the Ellroy comments, I would agree that he's an important writer in the genre, although I personally prefer the more coherent books. I can't think of him now, though, without remembering when we had James W. Hall for a signing once. He told us that Ellroy had been drinking some healthy herb that had a lot of caffeine in it, which he had recommended to Hall. Hall tried it and was bouncing off the ceiling for days. He said Ellroy drank quantities of the stuff every day and wondered if it had something to do with the increasingly hyper quality of his work.

On the media front, the New Yorker seems to having a mini-mystery month. A couple of weeks ago they published a Walter Mosley story, although it was fiction, not mystery. This week there's a very nice article on Evan Hunter by Pete Hamill, one grand old grizzled New York guy saluting another. In it Hunter recites legendary agent Scott Meredith's definition of pulp fiction. Says Hunter, "He was a brilliant guy, who hit upon a formula that absolutely defined the successful pulp story. And in today's world of fiction, most of the stuff on the market is pulp fiction. John Grisham is pulp fiction. And Scott defined it perfectly." Here it is, from Meredith's book "Writing To Sell," still in print:

A sympathetic lead character finds himself in trouble of some kind and makes active efforts to get himself out of it. Each effort, however, merely gets him deeper into his trouble, and each new obstacle in his path is larger than the last. Finally, when things look blackest and it seems certain that the lead character is finished, he manages to get out of his trouble through his own efforts, intelligence, or ingenuity.

Seems to me that this just about covers it. Did he leave anything out?

Happy New Year, Bonne Annee, Prospero Anno Felicidad and Freiliche Neu Jahre (sorry for all the misspellings) to all you guys and dolls of Rara Avis, who have made reading this list such a joy for me.

Lastly, would any George Pelecanos or Laurell Hamilton fans please contact me off-list?

Regards, Martha

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