RARA-AVIS: intro/Dortmunder/Block

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 13 Aug 2001

Hi all -

I just came across this list and recognize some names from other lists, but I'm trying to improve my hard-boiled IQ, so I thought I'd join this one.

Currently, I'm reading "The Cracked Earth" by John Shannon, which I'm really enjoying. It's a very nice blend of noir sensibility with contemporary L.A.
- high tech gadgets and a more up-to-date view of the L.A. economy and entertainment industry than you often see in crime fiction.

I'm currently a big fan of Lehane, Pelecanos, Connelly, and Crais [though I'm not nuts about the direction the latter two seem to be going with their most recent books, saying this without having read the new Crais] ; I've read a little bit of Hammett and Chandler, and I'm just discovering Block and Westlake.

Mark Sullivan wrote:
>The Dortmunder books just don't do it for me. I far prefer Westlake's
>darker work.

I started Westlake with "Drowned Hopes," which I thought was terrific. It's quite long for what is essentially a comic caper, but I was really impressed that he kept my interest and kept the plot going for the entire thing. I've got a very strong vision of Dennis Leary as Dortmunder (probably because of
"The Ref," an underrated flick with a certain Westlake-ian feel). Right now, I've got the audio of "Trust me on this" which is (I think) a standalone about tabloid journalism, and is quite lively so far.

I got off to a bad start with Block, trying "Burglar in the Rye," which I had to abandon due to excessive cuteness. Sometime later, I tried "Hit Man," which worked much better for me - though it sort of peters out after the first few episodes, which started out as independent short stories. I particularly liked "Keller's Therapy," and I'm wondering if this was the first appearance of the "bad guy and shrink" motif that seems to be everywhere now. I first remember seeing this device in "Grosse Pointe Blank," which I think came out in '97, and which - to put it kindly, at the very least - seemed *influenced* by the Keller stories. Since then you have
"Analyze This" and "The sopranos" and now every baddy seems to have an analyst on speed dial (nothing against the Sopranos, which uses the device very well).

Since then, I've read "Hit List" - which, though it ostensibly has an over arching plot, is really just more variations on the same theme. Still has some brilliant bits. I love Keller, and I would have read this book just for the "Homicide" references. After that, I read "sins of the Fathers". The psychology seems a little dated or else just plain out there, but great characters, great tone, nice streamlined plot, and he does New York very well. (though I just had to sob at the references to the victims "expensive"
$400/mo Manhattan apartment. And yeah, I know bucks were a lot harder to come by back then, but still!)


"Is that what you do for a living?" she asked. "Find folks?"
"Sometimes," I said. "Other times I just look."
-James Crumley, "The Last Good Kiss"

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