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

Date: 07 Feb 2000

Hi Neil,
    I think the genre either changes or it dies. If all we do is rewrite Hammett and Chandler and Thompson, et al. we might as well forget about it. My quarrel with Pelacanos (whose work I enjoy very much) is not that he does something different, but that he does things which, I believe, diminish his work. As far as unfairly comparing him to Hammett; I plead not guilty. What I did was fair. I'd compare elements of Richard Ford's writing to that of Hemingway without blushing. Also Poe to Hammett. Why not? Why shouldn't I do the same of Hammett and Pelacanos. What I'm comparing is craftsmanship not writing styles of the times or popular culture.
    Today, far more than in Hammett's day, communication and entertainment only work if they progress or evolve at warp speed. I'm convinced that to write for those awash in an M-TV, and action movie culture, the crime fiction writer needs to tell a strong, spare, compressed story in which the author is nowhere to be found. That's my manifesto for this discussion. Nothing more.
 I think that too frequently and for no good reason ( one that is necessary to the story) Pelacanos often fails to do that. Quentin Tarrentino does the same stuff with his movies. That's why he grows so tiresome.
    Not only do I disagree with your assessment that Pelacanos is "extending
" Leonard's work, I think Pelacanos is at his best when he is working hard to mimic Leonard's economy. Whatever is needed to reveal the characters, develop a sense of place and time, evoke a mood, and tell a story belongs in the book. Everything else is either poor craftsmanship or a writer who can't shut up or who is showing off. Pelacanos is too good to be guilty of poor craftsmanship.
    You may love the way he shows off because because you find that it speaks to you; I'm that way about Hunter Thompson, Louise Redd, and John Gregory Dunne. That doesn't mean the writing is effective - it just means that I think (and Thompson, Redd, and Dunne think) that they're cool.

                                Jim Blue

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