Date: 07 Feb 2000

Hello again from a lurker... You can call this piece of Rara Avis e-mail Educating Ruth- Hard-Boiled.

I've been reading books suggested as well as our assigned reading. I lurk trying to understand the sub-genre that is Hard-Boiled. MR. WHITE'S CONFESSION was a recent read for an unrelated group. We read it because of the Edgar. Many members in my mostly female group gave it up right away.They didn't like the prose. Other's loved it . I'm in the later group and am hoping that perhaps a few of you will read my poorly expressed feelings on the book... think about them a bit and try to help me with where I am in the road to understanding your favorite sub-genre. Thank you, ruth

I was wowed by this book. I Started reading it late for a mystery group and fully intended to read it as "a book to be reviewed and talked about". Does that make sense to anyone here? I was sucked in by the style and the sadness of this read so much that within chapters I was simply turning pages and trying to digest it all. Now I've been thinking about the book for a couple of days and for what it's worth this is what I've come up with.

In the first chapters I found the book "trying for hard-boiled" and not getting there. The Police were dispicable, the hero was awful and the women no great shakes either. I found myself thinking... what's all the fuss about and why is this hard-boiled?
  In my own little "hard-boiled" definition this sect of mystery fiction is indeed always full of corruption but must have at least one player whose travel through the story lends a "moral quotient". If that's not there then I think the book has little or nothing to add to hard-boiled. Face it, this male dominated part of Mystery can piss off Miss Marple most of the time with it's treatment of the Femme. So what I do read I want to be good.

And then came Horner... so his daughter left,his wife died and he was alone in this small house. He worked with people he tried to believe weren't as
"humane" as the good Lieutenant Wesley.Sorry sport. Taking in a young girl in the year 2000 out of pity and and a desire to be shagged again isn't acceptable let alone in the time frame this tale is drawn.And yet... I believe Clark did something important here. He showed us that it wasn't acceptable. When Maggie, a young under educated girl is the first person to actually look at the evidence and let's Horner know any fool can see the guy is innocent, Horner thinks it's rot. Buys her a coat, gets lost "in the volcano of her curves". Knows if she leaves he'll "die". The guy sure doesn't have much respect for himself . He thinks her this "unworthy" and yet will be lost if she leaves... PLEEASE. In the realm of life he is pathetic. And still remains so at the books conclusion.Clarks prose shows us this with a sadness that had me going back through the book trying to find a definitive sentence. I couldn't.

On Maggie... Yuck.... She tries , she fails,she's raped, she leaves, she becomes a mother nine months later. And yet she is the defender of Truth, Justice and the American Dream!!A sad girl making her way through a sad life. Ruby ... I like her. Drawn by Mr. White's shyness.Not willing to define why she's attracted and/or flattered by his attentions. She rings as more real than anyone else in this story. Notice I said real and not likeable. Mr. White. Met in real life I'd run. Plain and simple. His diaries however are wonderful in such a small and unpretentious way.And upon his release from prison I felt real sadness for him. To be given "past" at last while in prison and then not to be able to remember it? Love lost is sorrowful and this book tells it so well. Still, I don't think this is hard-boiled. The diaries are what sets it apart, what makes it sing a song of sadness. While I can think of hard-boiled told in two voices the diaries of Mr. White's Confessions don't fall within my narrow definition. Perhaps Corner's resignation from the police force is meant to be a penance for bad behavior. Perhaps this is supposed to be the moral. If so, it doesn't work for me because the players are so BAD there can be no redemption. Putting a band-aid on guilt with paper and pencils and yearly letters to the parole board only shows the man's shallowness at least matches that of his former playmates. It is the kind of self serving crap that makes me mad in a lot of mystery fiction denoument. Yet here too, Clark shines. He realizes this.Writes it that way. The Corner part of the tale is resolved with toss away kleenex while Clark saves the linen hanky for Mr. White. It is perhaps Mr. Clark's readers who don't see this .... who want to catagorize a story not meant to be catagorized.

To prove my point I'll ask you to consider the "mystery solved" portion of the book.Tossed in a trunk. Do you think maybe Clark was hitting us over the head with a frying pan with this tiny piece of symbolism?? After reading the rest of the book I have reason to believe so.

So MR WHITE"S CONFESSION may well hold up a mirror to hard-boiled but I think Clark is trying to strip that genre bare not pay hommage to it.


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