Re: RARA-AVIS: writers' aim

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 29 Aug 2001

Charlie wrote:

"And to suggest that the writer using such characters must be bigoted, well, kinda silly, don't you think??"

Well, yes and no.

I agree with you that characters of many different levels of morality should be presented. I even agree that "bad" people need not always be the bad guys. For instance, there is a Southern Sheriff in one of the Hap and Leonards who is clearly racist, but he is clearly a good person by his own standards. Lansdale is very good at differentiating this lawman from the other, corrupt ones in the town. The viewpoint characters, including the first person narrator clearly don't approve of the Sheriff's views, but I think they are presented fairly.

So the simple use of bad characters does not imply things about the author. However, the author's endorsement (or non-endorsement) does. If a writer always depicts good and evil in the same ways, without variation, always depicts certain character traits as positive and others as negative, then I think certain assumptions about the writer's values can be inferred. Does anyone have any doubts as to Spillane, the author's politics, for instance? Or Vachss, the author's views on child molesters? Whether this is a problem or not is another matter.


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