RARA-AVIS: California (Man, it pours...)

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 13 Feb 2001

Yeah, California (or at the southern part) is the big broken dream of American mythology. It never rains in southern California and all that. But, like Don Henley sang in The Last Resort, "You call some place paradise, kiss it good-bye."

It makes it an appropriate setting for sure, but I'm not so sure it was originally so well-planned. The significance is all in retrospect. It's more coincidence than anything than any literary plan that Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald all ended up there, and then they wrote what they knew. And a lot of less talented writers and even hacks mistook setting for substance. Easier to set their own books in a location that someone else had done so well, than tame their own backyards.

Thank God that yoke has been broken. John D. MacDonald did Florida, Raoul Whitfield did the Phillipines, Spillane did New York, Peter Corris does Sydney, Australia, Bill does Texas, George does Washington, D.C., and Kerry does Hamilton, Ontario. And the list goes on and on.

Hard-boiled fiction can be set almost anywhere. A hard-boiled protagonist, detective or otherwise, who doesn't know his own turf is a pretty pathetic one indeed. And I think that's one of the genre's strengths -- that it's one of the few genres that really, truly celebrates regional writing.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com
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