RARA-AVIS: Writing What You Know, and Other Stuff...

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 18 Apr 2001

John wrote:

>Is there a better description of two guys just
>doing their job than the bomb disposal fellers ingoring the gangster sat on
>the booby trapped toilet at the beginning of Freaky Deaky (the last great
>Elmore Leonard IMHO)?
>In general it seems to me it's a great help when a writer has a real
>experience of work to draw from - as with Higgins' lawyer books or
>Pelecanos' Firing Offence & Shoedog or Robert Sims Reid neglected cop novel
>Big Sky Blues or Anthony Bourdain's chef noir Bone In The Throat - and
>conversely, perhaps one of the weaknesses of much private eye fiction is
>that writers are continually struggling trying to write convincingly about a
>more or less imaginary profession.

And yet, Leonard never worked for the bomb squad, Chandler was never a private eye, Ellroy was never a crooked L.A. cop, and as far as I know, Ed McBain was never any kind of cop. And my guess is George doesn't go around arranging ambushes between groups of heavily-armed men, either. Writing what you know is great, but it's just so darn limiting. It doesn't have to be real; but it sure has to feel real.

Not that real life experience isn't a help, but imagination and legwork should never be undervalued, either.

And Kerry wrote:

>Of course, there's also the question
>of whether someone living and writing in Newfoundland (as Harvey does) is
>considered "American".

Hell, I have relatives in Newfoundland who don't even consider themselves Canadian.

And Mark wrote:

>All your choices are good. If you want a guide to authors and our favorite
>books of theirs, you might try looking in the archives for a Rara Avis
>survey of the hb authors who made the most impact on us. I think it
>began in December 1999
>under the thread 'blown away' Kevin Smith printed the basic list on his
>web site: http://www.thrillingdetective.com/ I don't know if it's still
>available there

Yep, it's still there, listed on the TRIVIA page somewhere. I never throw anything out (even I find stuff on there that I've forgotten about). And you could check out the responses to various P.I. Polls over the years, for reader's comments, pro and con, about the P.I. genre. I'm sure you'll notice the names of some of the perpetrators.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Apr 2001 EDT