RARA-AVIS: DC as location

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 03 Dec 2001

This question is mostly for the writers. What makes DC a distinctive location for hardboiled?

I know Benjamin Schutz and George Pelecanos grew up in the area, so they are writing about where they know. Schutz's description of a visit to The Wall, the Vietnam War Memorial, in All the Old Bargains, is as moving as the one in Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country.

However, is there anything in particular about "where you know" that makes it a particularly good set for this kind of literature? Did you feel you were taking the hardboiled traditions from other cities and imposing them upon DC? Or did your preexisting view of the city require that any tale you told would be noir? For instance, both authors make very good use of the not so nice 14th Street corridor of a few years ago.

Also, how do you decide when to use the right name or a fake one for real places? I can understand why you might change the name of places where bad things happen -- for instance, Schutz changes the name of the location of an armed confrontation from Foxchase Cinema to Princess Cinema in All the Old Bargains; and George changes the names of bars and clubs he says bad things about. Of course, many locals immediately know the real name. However, sometimes even benign places are not given their real names. Schutz has very complimentary things to say about the seafood at Crisfield's, a real restaurant in Silver Spring, Md, but does not name the Biograph, the arthouse theater in which his PI Leo Haggerty watches Road Warrior.

Are these choices arbitrary or are there reasons?


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