Re: RARA-AVIS: "Red Harvest" and characterization

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 30 Oct 2001

Carrie wrote:

"All of the characters besides the Op are totally static and basically flat. They don't change and only in a few instances does the progress of the story reveal anything new about them."

Why must a character change? (Yes, I know it's one of the textbook traits of the novel.) To me, some of the nbest hardboiled and noir revolves around a character who does not change, who may even be actively fighting against changing, trying to hold onto himself no matter what comes.

You seem to contrast the Op and Spade, but how does Spade change. He is the same person at the end of Falcon as he was at the beginning, an amoral man defined by his job, who gives up the possibility of change, through love, to remain the same man.

Goodis was a master at this. Although some of his characters try to change, they are almost always in exactly the same spot at the end of the novel as at the beginning, sometimes literally, as in Street of No Return, but often figuratively, as they return to women who are bad for them, turning their backs on the women who had offered them a chance for a new life, as in Blonde on the Street Corner, Cassidy's Girl and Moon in the Gutter.

Or as Paul Kavanagh first rule puts it: Do Nothing. It can be quite a challenge to do nothing, to evade change.


ps -- Carrie, Touch is very good, but it is very atypical of Leonard (a strange little book, but strange in a good way). Offhand, I think you would probably do better going to his books before Cat Chaser. He started writing very different books after that, after he left the locales of Detroit and Miami. As someone else noted, it was around that time that he seems to have begun writing more for the movie adaptation than for the novel. Get Shorty is definitely in the latter period.

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