From: First Gemini (
Date: 16 Dec 2001

I'd like to respond to Mark Sullivan's question about D.C. as a setting for hardboiled fiction and how the accuracy of the setting is determined. Obviously setting is one of the elements you use to help the reader suspend disbelief.You try to convincingly portray the locales for your story, not only physically, geographically, but also the spirit of a place.What that requires varies with the reader..Strangers and tourists may be satisfied by references to the monuments, to the "nation,s capitol" D.C., but local readers will need more to feel that the city has come to life.A variety of concerns determine how accurately I would portray places in the story.Lawsuit avoidance,protection of the innocent, narrative necessity coupled with ignorance of the available reality, research undone by fallible memory,my own sense of what is unique about D.C and it's environs.My stories are not ones that could only be set in D.C. but I want the reader to to feel that they are set in D.C.The accuracy of the settings in my books is not arbitrary, it's the product of all these concerns plus others I'm not aware of,imperfectly acted upon.

Ben Schutz Mark Sullivan wrote:

> As O-fficial thememaster for DC month, let me say a few words about the
> city's crime fiction and a few authors I know about.
> Most people probably think of espionage or legal thrillers involving
> politicians when they think of "mysteries" involving DC. However, in
> the last 15 years, DC has given rise to a strain of hardboiled fiction
> that has little or nothing to do with the elected visitors to the city.
> There were some precursors. Steve Bentley, created by Robert Dietrich
> (AKA E Howard Hunt), was a Playboy CPA who often got involved with
> murder. Stephen Marlowe's Chester Drumm had offices in DC, but the few
> books I've read in the series took place in foreign locales. And Ross
> Thomas set several of his books in DC, working that blurry area of
> overlap between internatonal intrigue and homegrown hardboiled.
> James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor" (and the movie, which cut the
> time in half) also fused a spy thriller with that hardboiled staple, a
> man on the run. Grady completed his jump to hardboiled with two books
> featuring DC PI John Rankin.
> Following closely in his footsteps was Leo Haggerty, created by Benjamin
> M Schutz. Most of Haggerty's jobs begin in DC's upscale suburbs, but
> they sometimes take him into the city (once, he calls Grady's Rankin for
> a bit of info). This series is top-notch. The first, "Embrace the
> Wolf," was nominated for a Shamus, the third, "A Tax in Blood," won one.
> Kevin Burton Smith has said of the fifth: 'And, in my exceedingly humble
> opinion, "A Fistful of Empty" is possibly one of the best PI novels of
> all time. So, the question is, "What ever happened to this guy?"' Well,
> he is right here. Mr. Schutz has graciously agreed to drop in on our
> discusssion this month.
> And then along came George Pelecanos. George's Nick Stephanos is not
> your usual PI. He probably has far more in common with Goodis's drunken
> heroes than with Phillip Marlowe, who could hold his liquor. After
> three books featuring Nick and "Shoedog," a one-off caper novel in the
> tradition of classic Gold Medals, George wrote the so-called (but not by
> him) DC Quartet, which explores DC's history of race and working class
> life, while continuing to satisfy crime fictions fans. His most recent
> work is back in contemporary times.
> Although less than half of Kenji Jasper's "dark" is set in DC, it casts
> a shadow over the entire book. Only after running away after a violent
> act does Thai Williams start to realize how the Shaw neighborhood has
> imprisoned his mind, shackling his expectations and telling him he can
> never be anything more than a thug.
> As Anthony has pointed out, "A Murder of Honor" is the first in a
> projected series by Robert Andrews, featuring DC cops Frank Kearney and
> Jose Phelps.
> Douglas E. Winter's "Run" is a compelling gun-running thriller, much of
> which is set in Virginia's suburbs.
> A secret history of the upscale Bethesda and Potomac, Maryland, suburbs
> is at the core of Derek Van Arman's "Just Killing Time." Although I'm
> no big fan of the serial killer genre, this book emphasizes the
> investigation of the psychopathology, not the mythology of killers.
> And Kevin lists several more DC detectives I don't know on his website
> (
> I know there are quite a few listmembers who live, or have lived, in the
> DC metropolitan area, and some more got a glimpse of the city at
> Bouchercon, so what do all of you think of its fictional counterparts?
> Please chime in on any of the above or anyone I've forgotten or don't
> know about.
> Mark
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