RARA-AVIS: Miami Purity/author analogy/innovation in crime fiction/early Spenser

From: Victoria Esposito-Shea ( victoria@esposito-shea.com)
Date: 01 Mar 2001

>As much as I like Jason Starr, Vicki Hendricks' Miami Purity, Kent
>Harrington's Dark Ride, Terrill Lankford's Shooters, etc. don't we
>immediately identify each as being an update of one of those earlier
>authors -- for instance, Miami Purity is a "female Thompson."

Wait a minute, though. MIAMI PURITY isn't a very good example, because it was written--in an MFA program--for an assignment that specifically required a work modeled on an earlier novel. (Actually, it was Cain's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE in this case.) So it's actually quite correct in some ways to refer to MIAMI PURITY as an update of an earlier author, but I don't think that takes anything away from the book.

And I wonder how much of what you're referring to is "identification as an update" and how much is analogy on the part of reviewers and publicists. I certainly don't consider comparing (say) Hendricks to Cain or Thompson or Highsmith--all of which I've done--to mean "she's taken their work and updated it", but rather "she's working in the same area they did".

Harking back to some earlier comments, I do think that there's more innovation, and more interesting stuff going on (and remember, this is a generalization) in plain crime fiction than there is in PI fiction. That said, though, I wonder how much of that comes from a sense of obligation on the part of the authors. I, like Mark, read PI fiction much of the time for that sense of the familiar, and surely that's not atypical. So, presumably, the authors feel they need to play to that to find or keep an audience, and the cycle continues.

Juri: try the first three Spenser novels, THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT, GOD BLESS THE CHILD, and (in particular) MORTAL STAKES. Those are the ones that really set the standard, I think.

Victoria Esposito-Shea Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder HandHeldCrime http://www.handheldcrime.com/

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