Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V3 #54

From: Bob Toomey (
Date: 25 Jan 2000

Paul Duncan wrote:

> Anybody who mentions Fredric Brown, Jerome Charyn, John Franklin Bardin,
> Marc Behm, Paul Auster, Dorothy B. Hughes, Phillip K. Dick and Peter
> Rabe in one post is reading the right kind of books in my opinion.

Charyn in particular is something special. I picked up the Avon reprint of THE EDUCATION OF PATRICK SILVER about 25 years ago. I'm looking at it right now. The cover shows Silver in his "filthy soccer shirt." You can't see it, but he's sticking of Dublin beer and humping around New York City in black socks and no shoes. Above the title is a quote from Herbert Gold, who's usually too high on the shelves to endorse your common cop novel: "Larger than life and full of life..enlivening, rich in observation..." Almost enough to scare away a potential reader. But right below Gold, the Boston Globe calls it "A lead-in-yer-liver cop story," so I split the difference and I turned to page one.

"Patrick Silver left the baby in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel. The baby, who was forty-four, sat in an upholstered chair, with his knuckles in his lap. His name was Jeronimo. A boy with gray around his ears, a Guzmann of Boston Road, his education had stopped at the first grade. He lived most of his life in a candy store, under the eye of his father and his many brothers. But the Guzmanns were feuding with the police. They couldn't protect the baby on their own. They had to put Jeronimo in Patrick Silver's care. Patrick was his temporary keeper.

"Jeromino had blackberries in his head."

Damn. And it's like that all the way through, staccato jazz riffs, every other sentence a complete surprise. It's hardboiled, but not like anything else. Charyn isn't reheating Hammett or Chandler. He arrives on the mean streets by way of Outer Mongolia or maybe Alpha Centarus. I'm not saying he hasn't read the pulps. He probably knows them by heart. But he isn't imitating them, he's reinventing them, just as, say, William S. Burroughs reinvented THRILLING WONDER STORIES. Special.

And here's something interesting -- Charyn doesn't even seem to be classed as a crime writer. He isn't in William L. DeAndrea's exhaustive ENCYCLOPEDIA MYSTERIOSA or any other list or standard reference I've seen. I wonder how he managed to dodge the bullet. Did Herbert Gold scare everybody off?

> You
> also know Shane Stevens. How about David Karp, Gerald Kersh, P J
> Wolfson... Is this the internet version of duelling banjos?

Naw. I tried reading Kersh's NIGHT AND THE CITY after seeing the Widmark film version. Didn't get very far before pitching it, but I was a teenager, so maybe I just wasn't ready. There was also a pb collection of stories, edited by or at least introduced by Harlan Ellison, and I read a few of them and wasn't impressed. Karp and Wolfson I missed completely. Where should I start with them?


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