RARA-AVIS: Dirda's HB choices (WashPost chat)

From: southpaw@altavista.net
Date: 11 Jan 2001


> DC: Mr. Dirda: What are your thoughts on the hard-boiled
> genre? And if you have any favorite authors who write in
> this style? Thanks.
> Michael Dirda: Very fond of hard-boiled fiction. One of the
> best reading experiences of my life took place on a bus
> trip from DC to Ithaca New York: I lost myself in The Big
> Knockover and other Continental Op stories, by Dashiell
> Hammett. A couple of candy bars, a cup of coffee and this
> terrific collection--may we speak of bliss?
> I've read all of Hammett and Chandler, the twin gods, and
> particularly like Chandler's letters. He once wrote "I live
> for syntax." How can you not like a guy like that?
> I've read around most of the people who contibuted to
> Black Mask -- Lester Dent, Paul Cain et. al. There are a
> number of good anthologies,the oldest and best being: The
> Hard-Boiled Dicks. Aong modern descendants of the masters
> I like Charles Willeford, Richard Stark (aka Donald
> Westlake) and Chester Himes. For some reason I've never
> read Jim Thompson and David Goodis, though I keep meaning
> to.
  [ . . . ]
> Somewhere, USA: Lawrence Block is someone working now whom
> I consider to be near the top of the hard-boiled game. Try
> When the Sacred Ginmill Closes and Dance at the
> Slaughterhouse for starters. Any thoughts on George
> Pelicanos? I've heard he's good. The same with Estleman and
> Dibdin.
> Michael Dirda: I like Block a lot, though I tend to read
> his comic Bernie Rhodenbarr books rather than the Matt
> Scudder's. George P is terrific; Estleman I once read and
> didn't like, but I think I may have chosen a poor novel.
> Dibdin I admire a great deal, being especially fond of his
> comic novel about Aurelio Zen, Cosi von Tutti.
  [ . . . ]
> DC: I tried to deduce from context, but must ask: What is
> hard-boiled fiction?
> Michael Dirda: Gritty novels about private eyes,
> double-crossing dames, and scams that go wrong. Think
> Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer. Hemingway doing a crime
> novel.
  [ . . . ]
> Boston, MA: Re: Hard-boiled Masters
> How about James Sallis? His Lew Griffin "mysteries" strike
> me as great modern stuff. Or perhaps James Ellroy?
> Michael Dirda: Yes, of course.


> Winston-Salem, NC: You've mentioned Ross Thomas previously,
> any suggestions for a place to start with his mysteries?
> Michael Dirda: The Cold-War Swap; Chinaman's Chance; The
> Seersucker Whipsaw; or The Fools in Town are on OUr Side.
   [ . . . ]
> Richmond, VA: I am a fan of the psychological mystery
> genre--Rendell, James, George, etc. Can you recommend some
> new or less well-known authors who are worth reading?
> Michael Dirda: Patricia Highsmith--Strangers on a Train;
> THe Talented Mr. Ripley; Ira Levin, A Kiss Before Dying.
> Cornell Woolrich, the black series (The Bride Wore Black,
> Rendezvous in Black); also as GEorge Hopley, Night Has a
> Thousand Eyes C.S. Forester, Payment Deferred


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