RE: RARA-AVIS: Realism: HB vs. cozies (was: Those were the days)

From: Anthony Dauer (
Date: 09 Sep 2000

That's okay, 'cause when I said ... "The easily offended should stick with cozies anyway ... no use offending their delicate sensibilities with reality." I didn't mean that cozies weren't real or realistic, just that they do not have the same graphic realism that HB has. A prostitute in a cozy would be a high-priced call girl along the lines of a historical courtesan vice in HB where the average prostitute would probably appear as a crack whore (not to say that prostitutes are limited to that ... Lawrence Block in "The Sins of the Fathers" deals with a call girl / escort type of prostitute vice a common street walking lady of negotiable affection with a taste for coca puffs).

The UK has a significantly smaller population than even CONUS America ... but let's take a peek at The Sunday Times (I assume that is an acceptable equivalent to the Pravda on the Potomac?) ... and considering the headline, I'm already in trouble ... the post lead with a lady's sporting article:

        Paedophile Homes to be Raided

        Walking a thin blue line (Two men were murdered at this year's Notting Hill carnival.)

        Police call up the cardboard cops

        Parents cheat in school appeals

        Hidden bombs spark hunt for lone terrorist

        Breath test to sink the drunken sailor

        Tea house tips for hardened drinkers

        Lawyers sue gardai over 'phone taps'

        Dublin takes to the skies in fight against street crime

        Eircom hacker 'has cracked RTE' (17 year old schoolboy)

        Weapons body in row over hotel bugging

        Smurfit staff 'stay silent' in murder case

        Mafia moves in as Pompeii gets £25m facelift

... well, in quantity we appear to be the same ... but quality? ;) Crime doesn't happen so irregularly in the US that the novelty of it makes it appear in our media ... blood sells is what makes crime the primary news that we get. But that doesn't change the fact that the crime occurred and it may have occurred to someone you don't know, it may have occurred to you, or someone you work with. There was a survey that reported an alarmingly number of people will either be a victim of a crime or that some one close to them will be a victim of crime. My mother had a pipe bomb attached to her car after she tried to unionize her fellow waitpersons at a restaurant whose owner had ties with the mob so I've already made my statistic ... a few times over if you include the family friend who was convicted of rape and whose police chase ended in my bedroom where the police found him hiding under my brother and I's bean bag chair. I'd like to say that I was unique, but after having traveled the US and with ten years serving in the military with Americans from across the country it just ain't so. The exception are those who haven't not those who have.

volente Deo,

Anthony Dauer Alexandria, Virginia
"If you don't leave, I'll get somebody who will." -Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)

-----Original Message----- From: Chris Routledge Sent: Saturday, September 09, 2000 12:20 PM
I don't think I argued that the things described in hb fiction don't happen, just that they don't happen to many people and even in big bad America they don't happen that often - that's why they make the headlines. Your headlines could apply equally to any day in the UK, too, by the way: the trial of Dr. Harold Shipman finished a few months ago. He was convicted of (I think) twenty murders, but is thought to have finished off at least a hundred of his patients, some of them in his surgery with others waiting outside his office. But when was the last time you saw a newspaper report along the lines of "All but three people in Atlanta not murdered today" or "Doctor is caring and compassionate professional"? There is a tendency I think for the press to overplay the risks: a report a few years ago noted that Americans are more likely to die a violent death in the suburbs than in the city itself - mostly in traffic accidents. So I just don't buy the idea that hb fiction is any more realistic (for most people) than the cozies, which aren't very - I still love reading it, though. There might even be an advantage in scaring us (Pravda of the Potomac may not be so far from the truth): remember Chandler's point that "A tired scared man can't afford ideals, he has to buy food for his family".
As for the English village: I live in one that has grown to a suburb because people wanted that kind of life. A certain number still behave as if it exists: we have a Bobby on the beat, a vicar who walks up the road in his cassock to a church where the bells ring on Sunday morning, a post office where people go to gossip, and a drug problem at the local school. Er, scratch that last bit.
None of this matters, of course: literature only really works when you disregard questions of verisimilitude :)
Cheers Chris
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