Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: career and peak and more questions to Jerry Healy

From: M Blumenthal (
Date: 20 Nov 2001

Jeremiah Healy wrote,

> I think the major problem with ANY series, of whatever length, is not so
> much avoiding redundancy in plot (there are only so many homicide
> motivations) as avoiding it in characters. The problem for a lot of
> long-running series is that the author keeps recycling the same
> repertory company of characters, either literally or functionally, so
> that the reader sees very little new in a succeeding book. Personally, I
> have a theory on why this repetition of characters occurs: Once you are
> successful enough to become a "full-time" writer, you by definition are
> cut off from a lot of the "real" world, "day-job" stimuli of meeting new
> people who can BE credible characters as realistic players in a mystery
> novel.

Jerry, Maybe this is related to your point. What bothers me as well is repetitions of scenes. Although it is not hb, an example is by an author most people on this list greatly admire --Donald Westlake. I think almost all of Westlake's Dortmunder books have the inevitable meeting of the gang in the back of the bar whose name I can't think of offhand. .Having had it in originally, Westlake seems to feel we always have to read about the same two drunks arguing at the bar and all the 'stichlach' in the meeting itself. It's as though he pastes in the basic scene with minor alterations to fit the individual book. .I've already written yoou about my not liking Cuddy's visiting Beth's grave, but I'm sure if you owere to omit it I'm sure you would hear from disgruntled fans. Btw, you can add me to those not against Nancy's dying. If you thought it necessary, then it was.

I guess many times an author of a long series has to some extent use the character that his readers are familiar with and like. Countered to that is familiarity breeds contempt. Just as though people get tired of the characters in a long running sitcom, they will tire of those in a book series.Have you kept the ancillary characters to a minimum to avoid the problems above?

I wrote earlier I thought Cuddy was positioned between the ethnic grittiness of Lehane's Patrick and Angie and the upwardly mobile Spenser who seems to spend all his nonworking hours in Boston within a few blocks from the Public Gardens or the Charles and dining or eating at the most expensive places in Boston. If you agree, have you done that as well to keep possible irritating elements to a minimum? I think you have kept Cuddy down to earth, believable and likable.

My last questions to you - I'm sort of surprised only Mario and I have mentioned George V Higgins. Was he a criminal lawyer that defended the type of people he writes about in his early books? I have recently seen some of his later books usually featuring lawyers as protagonists. If you have read them, do they come close to being as good as his early books? I am willing to read non hard boiled if they are worthwhile. Mark

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