RARA-AVIS: Re: Bloody Words

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 12 Jun 2001

William Denton wrote (about his panel at Bloody Words):

> > (Mine didn't go perfectly but they did fine jobs. Jose
>> Latour, who wrote OUTCAST, was on mine, and said some really interesting
>> things about noir writing in Central and South America, none of which I
>> can remember now.)

And Kerrys responded:

>You do yourself a disservice, Bill. Jose Latour talked about the
>difficulty and
>danger of writing noir in his home country (Cuba) because political
>saw it as threatening. It depicted them as the corrupt power-mongers they are.
>Clearly they feared the possibility it could lead to social and
>political change.
>Peter Chambers began by admitting he didn't feel he had a place on
>the panel as a
>noir writer, and so he acted as a foil, prodding Latour to clarify
>and expand his
>comments into areas that might be more relevant to North American writers and
>Part way through, Gregory Ward provided an example of how
>authorities in "western
>democracies" try to silence fans and creators of noir fiction, by
>saying he felt
>there was a line that should not be crossed into sensationalism and implying
>anyone who crosses that line lacks moral decency. Making this comment at a
>gathering of people who read and write about murder was an
>especially revealing
>hypocrisy. It became clear that writers who depict shocking scenes in order to
>shock their readers are often moralists who feel their readers
>should and need to
>be shocked by the state of the world.

Relax, Bill. These panels never go perfectly, from what I hear. I agree with Kerry. If the panel wasn't a total success, Bill, it's not your fault -- you didn't pick the panelists, after all. At least both Peter Chambers and Greg Ward both came right out and stated they didn't feel they really belonged on the panel, but only Ward went out of his way to prove it. A nice enough guy, quite articulate, but he seemed to base his entire theory about noir on some Alfred Hitchcock movies he'd seen. But his comments and Chambers' certainly sparked Latour. His passionate comments alone made the panel well worth attending. Anyone who hasn't read OUTCAST should do so real soon -- Latour's wrath for the powers that be, and his compassion for the people they allegedly serve, refreshingly know no borders.

And speaking of borders, Kerry's wide-ranging and intriguing panel, about cultural differences between Canadian and American crime-writing was likewise slightly marred by a few omissions (more oversight than ignorance, I think) on the parts of panelists (eg. evidently Ontario borders on New Brunswick), but rescued, nonetheless, by some pretty perceptive comments by Peter Robinson and last minute substitute Scott (THE ICE HARVEST) Phillips, who a couple of Kerries and I had the pleasure of closing a few bars with on the last night on the conference. And in her panel, Marianne managed to trace the detective genre all the way back to Beowulf. No truth to the rumours the Toronto police arrested her later Saturday night for attacking a fibreglass moose with a battle axe, while muttering something about dragons.

And Estleman was a pretty interesting character himself, appearing on several panels, including a great one on guns in crime fiction. He isn't Amos Walker, but he comes close at times. Though, by his own rueful admission, some of his well-touted research seems to stumble when it crosses borders.

I also caught a reading by Giles Blunt, who wrote FORTY WORDS FOR SORROW. He read from a work in progress, and it was really quite good, in a hard-boiled humourous way -- has anyone actually read his books?

Or, for that matter, Margaret Atwood's THE BLIND ASSASSIN? It won the ICAW Hammett prize on Saturday night for "literary excellence in crime writing by a U.S. or Canadian author" (beating out Scott Phillip's book, as well as Stephen Hunter's HOT SPRINGS, Joe R. Lansdale's THE BOTTOMS and Brad Smith's ONE-EYED JACKS). All of those could be considered hard-boiled (and i think they've a;; been discussed on this list), and anyone familiar with Atwood's work knows she's not exactly a cozy writer herself. Though she did admit she wasn't sure why she was now considered a crime writer, despite the fact many of her novels revolve around a crime, she did offer an interesting, if cock-eyed, justification with a fond remembrance of her own youth, growing up reading Dell mapbacks.

(If this somehow gets posted twice, I apologize. Somehow the first one was bounced because it "wasn't plain ASCII text". Weird....)

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