RARA-AVIS: Scudder/Stefanos

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 15 Aug 2001

Ian wrote:

>Nope there's a definite similarity IMHO, although Stefanos appears
>unwilling to try and overcome his alcoholism as Scudder did. Other
>novels on that vein are those by James Crumley, although his tone is
>entirely different.

I've only read the first Stefanos and the last (meaning "Shame the Devil," which is really a Stefanos book despite the expanded POV), and he does seem to be making a move toward recovery, though he's certainly not on the wagon yet; it's at least open ended. Interesting thing about Pelecanos - for all the violence and substance abuse, at the core he's one of the most
"family-values" oriented writers I've encountered. Well, OK, his heroes do have a tendency to get big guns and blow the bad guys away. But there's always a core of decency in his heroes that they can't quite ignore, and the importance of families - real and surrogate - is never far in the background. He's both unafraid to show us that these men (usually) really love each other, and smart enough not to have them say it too much. The point of that tangent is that I really love the way Nick and Dimitri support each other in StD - Nick able to teach Dimitri a thing or two about grief and moving on, Dimitri nudging Nick toward recovery.

Crumley's another story. The sex and drugs and violence in "The Last good Kiss" are more manic and seem to be there for their own surreal entertainment value. In Pelecanos (at least the first book), even when Nick's on a bender, even in the first person, there's some psychic distance/self-awareness; Nick can see where things are headed and it's not so much that he can't stop as that he can't quite convince himself of a good reason to stop. The narrator of "Kiss" seems more in denial about the extent to which he himself has a problem, though there's quite a bit of exploration of the destructiveness of his sometime client's problem. There's a great tension between the joys and dangers of alcoholism in both writers, but maybe Crumley revels more in the contradictions, and Pelecanos is more clinical? (Based on the books I've read, maybe not true across all of their work).

Haven't read enough Scudder to figure out where he fits, but I'll have to keep this in mind as I go through them.


"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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