Re: RARA-AVIS: God is in the details, not the footnotes....

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 12 Dec 2001

Mark B wrote:

"The books George Pelecanos is writing are not set in his present. They are hard boiled, but they are also historical novels."

For the record, this only applies to the DC Quartet (I know you're working your way through those now, Mark). The rest of his novels, the four before that (although there's a long flashback sequence in Nick's Trip) and the, soon to be, two since are all contemporaneous novels.

However, this raises an interesting question -- is there a difference between an older hardboiled novel set in its own time and a later one set in the same time?

I'd say, yes, since it is a conscious choice for the one writer to write about the past, while it is probably as much default as anything else that another writer sets his/her work in her/his own time. For instance, Ellroy seems to set his books in the past in order to exploit certain social attitudes and behaviors that would not be as easily accepted in a contemporary book. And in doing this, he probably forefronts a more specific and intentional interpretation of a society than a writer of that time who may take the era's whole zeitgeist for granted. If nothing else, Ellroy is saying this older time offered things that today's society does not. I'm not going to get into whether or not he endorses those differences.


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