Re: RARA-AVIS: The Cain Tradition?

From: Juri Nummelin (
Date: 28 Feb 2001

On Tue, 27 Feb 2001 wrote:

> Believe you are overreacting to Juri's comment. He's not dismissing Chandler as
> a major influence, but suggesting there is an alternative tradition that can be
> traced back to Cain. I, for one, would be interested in hearing what this
> tradition might be, and what writers he (or anyone else) would say are sons and
> daughters of Cain.

Thanks for backing me up with this one. I tried to argue about this in the other mail I just sent. Let me add some more thoughts:

a) the private eye genre slips too easily into the girl chase and guns; Chandler already notified this and wasn't too happy

b) the private eye genre slips too easily into the praise of the private eye himself - look at Parker's Spenser. I tried, but I just couldn't get anything out of "Looking for Rachel Wallace": the first thirty pages are passed in what seems to be only the appraisal of Spenser. He has a beautiful and witty girlfriend whose only function in the book seems to be there for him, always telling that although he has his peculiarities, he's always the man! same goes for several other writers, including almost any fifties and sixties paperback writers (including and excluding Richard Prather at the same time)

c) the private eye genre was modified into the mildly boring spy genre through the works of Edward Aarons, Stephen Marlowe and others (Donald Hamilton being the gem, and maybe Walt Sheldon, but I have read too little from him)

d) the private eye genre is superficial and doesn't necessarily have any involvement from the author, whereas such writers as Goodis and Williams seem to be very deep in their work

The line of authors that leads up here from James M. Cain (and maybe others, Edward Anderson perhaps, but I haven't read him, and W.R. Burnett) just is more interesting than the egotistical private eye genre. Chandler's books aren't egotistical (or if they are, he does so well I don't mind), but his successors are. (Ross Macdonald excluded and Howard Browne. Others, too, but you know how I feel about Parker and other guys.)

Need to get to work.


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