Re: RARA-AVIS: Copy Cats (was Once more into the breech...)

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 01 Sep 2000

Neil wrote:

"Yeah, some imitators are able to push past that and come into their own later. NOw I'll have to go think of more than one name...."

This reminds me of a theory I have, that I call the "Fuck Up Theory of Artistic Development." I'm pretty sure I've brought this up here before, but it goes like this: Most (all?) writers/artists/musicians start off imitating others. Needless to say, they can never perfectly replicate their models and their originality is measured as the degree to which they get it wrong. Eventually, good artists notice this and pursue their own "fuck ups."

Still, others are at their best during their early imitative period. For instance, I always preferred Parker's early very-Marlowe novels to the later ones in which Spenser took on his own (or Parker's) personality.

As for other great imitators, John Evans/Howard Browne immediately comes to mind. He's the first author I'd recommend for anyone who's finished all of Chandler and wants more.

Juri, I'm with you on the Monkees (by the way, "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" encapsulates David Goodis's stock theme), self-consciously commercial work need not be mutually exclusive of quality work. Just look at the classic Gold Medal writers.

Did those great PBO writers follow trends? Well, almost every series character published by Gold Medal became a spy after James Bond caught on. And those who lasted past the era of the PBO, their books got fatter as the market (publishers?) demanded longer books.


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