RE: RARA-AVIS: Bleedin' Heart Burke?

From: Robison Michael R CNIN (
Date: 30 Apr 2001

i liked shella too, but i couldn't read much along that line... it was by far the most depressing book i've ever read. makes sylvia plath seem like an optimist.


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> Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Bleedin' Heart Burke?
> Kevin asked:
> "Burke is major politically correct? You've just got to explain that
> one."
> Although the question was addressed to Miker, I thought I'd jump in. I
> can't read the Burke novels. I read the first and it was more than
> enough for me; I tried to begin the second, but had to put it down. And
> this was one of the reasons. As admirable as Vachss's work against the
> exploitation of children is in real life, and as much as I mostly
> applaud his politics, the Burke books become agit-prop -- all about the
> empowerment of abused children and revenge fantasies against evil
> abusers. He makes Spillane look subtle in his political agenda,
> although Vachss is mostly on the left, even with his biblical
> retribution. I guess self-righteous violence is not limited to any one
> political position.
> However, the real reason I don't read the Burke books is because I can't
> take the writing -- it is so overblown. First of all, Burke's "I'm a
> loner bad guy in the revenge ode of Mike Hammer" stance is so
> hypocritical. Every three pages he moans/brags about being a loner with
> no ties to drag him down, but he has a surrogate family as tight as any
> in PI fiction, including the women PIs. And that family is so carefully
> liberally composed to represent the oppressed. On top of that, if I had
> had to hear about how he trained his dog one more time I was going to
> scream. An editor needs to trim the redundancies.
> That said, I think his non-Burke work is great. Shella is a classic
> novel which addresses all of his concerns, but makes its point through
> getting you to almost empathize with a pretty scary character, not
> through hitting you over the head, but through getting you inside him,
> getting you to understand his warped motivations. Even as you deplore
> the character, you wish the situations that helped mold him could be
> eradicated. And his short work in Bad Blood is terrific.
> Still haven't figured out how he could dedicate a book to Iceberg Slim,
> though. With his strict anti-exploitation stance, how could he endorse
> Slim's glorification of predatory pimps?
> Mark
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