Re: RARA-AVIS: character development

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 31 Oct 2001


I agree that you and I got a little bogged down in definition. Your distinction between character change and character revelation helps a lot. Actually, if I haven't made it clear, I consider myself a character person, too. And it is character revelation that interests me, especially that of characters fighting against change (I know, in the cosmic and/or zen sense, that struggle is change, too). It (and style) is far more important to me than an intricate plot. (Hell, I love Goodis and many of his plots are utterly ridiculous.)

Speaking of plot, Juri, I agree that Long Goodbye is clearer than much Chandler (as we all know, not even Chandler had any idea who killed one of the characters in Big Sleep), but I figured out the gimmick fairly early on and I seldom even try to figure out whodunnit. I guess I just always figure SPOILER ALERT that any body in a mystery, especially its face, not actually seen by a totally trustworthy character is never the body it is supposed to be. SPOILER OVER That said, I think this is the book in which we get to know Marlowe best, through his relationship and reactions to Terry Lennox. Of course, part of that may be because it was the first Marlowe I read.

Back to Carrie: I also consider Switch atypical Leonard, although the comic caper is becoming more typical of him (I realize that I've now called almost half of his books atypical, so maybe it's actually the hardboiled Detroit and early Florida novels I like so much that are atypical). It is a humorous caper gone wrong book, about a kidnapping. It features the characters who reappear in Rum Punch (made into the film Jackie Brown) decades later. It's fun, but I prefer Leonard's harder stuff -- Split Images, City Primeval, Stick, Ryan's Rules (AKA Swag), Unknown Man #89 (?), etc. And to whoever speculated that those who lost interest in Leonard did so because Leonard's plots became looser, less constructed, well, not in my case. I lost interest because of his shift in tone and character. The books became less driven, more leisurely, a bit more tongue in cheek, more openly romantic in vision. And his characters ceased being as desperate.

Finally, I haven't read Dead Souls, yet, but for the record, there are books in the series in which Rebus is at least as contrary as Bosch, although he seldom seems to have the control over his own world than the LA detective has. And it's been a while since I've seen the movie or read The Maltese Falcon, but I don't remember there being much, if anything, in the movie that's not in the book, which is one reason why it's such a good movie.


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