Re: Re: Re: RARA-AVIS: Ellroy reviewd at Salon; Spillane still not dead

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 13 Jun 2001

Okay, I'm not too proud to cop to being a dedicated genre reader. And I don't think my experience is appreciably different from that of the
"average genre reader," even if I do have a few initials after my name. Private eye novels are my default reading. I find great comfort in the conventions. I don't particularly want to be challenged.

I will sooner read even a mediocre PI novel than a good book in another genre. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort just to expand that to other types of crime fiction, even as close as hardboiled and/or noir.

And as much as I do still enjoy and get immersed in, as much as I get out of and am glad I have read "serious fiction," it sometimes requires an "appointment" for me to get started.

That said, I am interested in that which pushes the edges of those conventions (one reason I think so much of James Sallis, for instance). In my mind, the best genre fiction offers a dialectic between convention and novelty.

Which quote do I find insulting to readers of crime fiction? Actually, it's the same one you quote:

"Fans of crime thrillers would have complained that "American Tabloid" was [nearly as] impenetrable [as "Ulysses" -- that is, if fans of crime thrillers had known what "Ulysses" is."]

Forget the Ulysses comparison (drop out everything in the brackets) and you are still left with the claim that crime fiction readers found Tabloid impenetrable. Where is the evidence of this? It was a bestseller. Is it farfetched to believe that many of the buyers, particularly the early buyers, were fans from his earlier books?

And it found a big enough audience that 6,000 was assured an even larger press run. How has it been selling? Can't it be assumed that a certain number (probably a large number) of those sales are from readers of Tabloid, many of them crime fiction readers? Would any of them move on to the second in the series if they could not penetrate the first?


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