Re: RARA-AVIS: bloated characterizations?

From: Juri Nummelin (
Date: 30 Oct 2001

Carrie responded to me:

> >As for Hammett's "Harvest", I can understand it is dull to someone. >It's
> >so tense and brief that readers who like deep characterizations (bloated,
> >if you ask me) that are so popular in crime and thriller >genre nowadays.

I was wondering whether no one would notice that my sentence stops in the middle. I don't know anymore what I was going to say - maybe just that the readers nowadays really expect more of characterizations. And so they are bored with "Red Harvest". And that is understandable. But is it acceptable?

Now, as for this sentence:
> >But they are wrong and they should read more Hammett.
> I can't tell if you're kidding or not; it never occurred to me that somebody
> could enjoy the "wrong" thing

I was kidding, at least mildly. But they should read more Hammett and stuff like that, because the deep characterizations are not the only thing in the world. I've been asking myself (and Rara-avians also) whether the deep thoughts and other stuff make crime literature more literature. I don't think so. The style can be ripe and full even though the characters are not. The view of the world can be interesting even though the characters are not. (And I should add that there is no book where interesting people make a good book without good style and/or interesting view of the world.)

> And do you
> really think there's no middle ground between Hammett's thumbnail sketches
> and "bloated" story telling? Are Connelly, Crumley, Lehane, and Pelecanos
> all "bloated" because their characters generally receive more than a couple
> sentences worth of description/development before they start shooting each
> other?

Of course there is a middle ground and I think that of those you mention at least Pelecanos is there. (Haven't yet read any Connelly, but it seems that his books are huge, so they *might* be bloated.) But I'm more of a Leonardist: dialogue reveals more than deep thoughts and the action takes place in a clearly defined context, milieu and time, and therefore they tell us more than deep thoughts and characterizations.

I started Crais's "Demolition Angel" couple of nights ago. It's at least okay and it's not bloated, but I don't know what it adds up to to have the lead character dwelled in personal tragedy (the blowing off of his lover and herself). But a question: this is my first Crais and first to one translated in Finnish. How does it compare to Elvis Cole books?


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