Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Pellecanos (and Adams)

From: Greg Swan (
Date: 06 Feb 2000

From: Jim Blue <>
> My quibble with Pelacanos is not that he includes detail, but that he
> includes detail for its own sake, long after it has stopped revealing the
> personalities and motives of his characters, and long after it has been
> necessary for an understanding of the story. Maybe he does it because he
> loves writing it, but he certainly doesn't do it because the reader or the
> story need it. It seems self indulgent to me, and as with so many of his
> characters, all style.
> I find that I keep wanting to say to him, "Okay, I got it. I
> who these people are, how they are hooked up to each other, and what is
> on. I don't need five more examples of it and another 10 pages that don't
> move the story an inch."

I always saw Pellecanos as slyly intruding the postmodern on the neo-realistic world of Hammett and Hemingway. Song titles, soft drink brands, a street sign, stupid little events in a life . . . all cultural artifacts and symbols that make up reality in the postmodern world. From that perspective, it's not characterization Pellecanos is doing. He doesn't include this stuff as "plot points," where everything introduced in detail must have significance later on in the story. Instead, he's describing a world where concrete reality doesn't exist, just regurgitated symbols endlessly reprocessed appearing again and again in refrain.

While I can respect Hammett's achievement and even understand him in the context of his time period, I wouldn't give him to today's reader as an introduction to hardboiled/noir. I mentioned Lawrence Block before as a possibility. Upon reflection, Pellecanos would be better.

Greg Swan

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