From: Maura McMillan (
Date: 07 Jan 2000

if my top five were who i think they were, they were

willeford cain crumley pelecanos thompson

if this is the case, here are my top suggestions for each - if this ISN'T the case, who cares.

willeford - i like the hoke books, but also feel that if you read only them you miss a great deal of what willeford was all about. so i recommend also the burnt orange heresy, the woman chaser, cockfighter, the black mass of brother springer - these are not hb books, of course, but reading w's other works adds to your appreciation of the hokes. it elucidates one, don't you know. and any way, willeford is NOT a hb writer, but he works his way in there anyway.

cain - although it has been years since i reread cain, i know for certain that mildred pierce was the one that got me (my being female may be the thing there, as few hb writers can do justice to a female character. not even female hb writers. in my humble and ignorant opinion. i continue to seek a contemporary female hb writer who works for me, but that's another matter-)

crumley - i like everything i've read of mr. crumley's. even if i give the thing a less than perfect score when i'm done, there is always a core of truly good writing, character and plot development that will ensure i continue to read whatever he writes. bordersnakes, for example, has some pretty nauseating things in it - i mean, i hate to think of any guy having to have that needle treatment - things a squeamish thing like me doesn't want to have to dwell on - but because c's use of violence is so well done, so non-gratuitous, and so clearly visible, i don't let it (my instinctive recoiling from such awful things) interfere with my enjoying his books. crumley has a new book almost finished, as yet untitled, to be published some time next fall or winter. Milo in Texas.

pelecanos - well i love everything george pelecanos has written. his ear for how people speak is deadeye. (how's that for an interesting mix of metaphors?) and i can repeat what i said about crumley, in his presentation of violence. i like pelecanos esp. because he is at heart a literary writer, and always improving, and look forward to what he will write in the future that is not genre-bound. which i can also say about crumley. they are both realities-unto-themselves but share these things in common. pelecanos is someone to ask your library to acquire.

thompson - i think i mentioned that i feel a direct connection between thompson and flannery o'connor. thompson always conveyed a night-of-the-soul quality; that is why i read all of his stuff, novels and autobio, straight through without stopping. i have always been comfortable with that existential and lonely kind of world. (yes i had a perfectly good upbringing and my parents are proud of me.) but the attraction one can feel for a dark, difficult time that still holds humor - this is what thompson masters so well. as does willeford. flannery o'connor. i feel the constant mention of pop. 1280 does thompson disservice, because lou ford's brashness and extroverted personality are very different from the characteristics of many other thompson protagaonists. i like pop 1280, don't misunderstand, but i would like people to know thompson was a writer of much larger scope than simply a guy who cranked out some good psychos. his autobiographical stuff -- bad boy, roughneck, heed the thunder, south of heaven - is excellent.


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