RE: RARA-AVIS: Crime fiction series - Vachhs et al

From: Anderson, Erick (ETW) (
Date: 04 Feb 2002

Hi Jim --

I completely agree. You use the phrase considerable talent, I used the phrase special talent, but I think we're talking about the same thing. As I said, there are innummerable examples of series books that I've enjoyed, some even improved over time (I think Parker's A Savage Place was better than The Godwulf Manuscript).

I also agree that whether you're writing series or one-offs, it's a challenge to keep the material fresh, especially if, as you say, you're writing in one genre. But would you agree that as Elmore doesn't write a series, but writes about essentially the same character, it may be easier for him to keep things fresh than if he had to build stories around the same cast of characters (same names, same locales, same tics and foibles, etc.)?

I also agree about Ellroy's fascinating sameness. His themed noir of almost gaussian proportions which I found fascinating in the first book I read from him (Black Dahlia, I think), has, after a few more (I went back to Brown's Requiem, then LA Confidential and American Tabloid, plus one or two others) left me feeling sort of cloyed. Which by no means diminishes his considerable talent.

I think it must be extremely challenging to put something out there, especially if it becomes popular, to then try continually to top yourself; perhaps sort of like doing special effects for action films.

Question: I understand that some writers develop characters whom they then set in motion to sort of write the story as they go along, while others develop the plot, and carefully structure the story, then write characters to work within those parameters. Do you think this is true? It seems that the prior method would more readily lend itself to series, while the latter would tend to make characters within each story more unique. What are your feelings? Would you agree, disagree?

Best Regards, Erick

> ----------
> From:
> Reply To:
> Sent: Monday, February 4, 2002 11:43 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Crime fiction series - Vachhs et al
> In a message dated 2/4/02 1:12:23 PM, writes:
> << I'd have to throw in with the group that likes the stand alones best,
> >>
Jim responded:

> It takes considerable talent to write ... and not get stale...
> Leonard ... books are really all about "the same guy," ...
> The Ellroy books all have a fascinating sameness....Nevertheless, for
> a long while Ellroy got stronger with each book.
> The difficult chore is to keep doing it better each time, and that is
> damned tough duty for any writer whether he/she is doing a series or
> creating
> one of a kind's.

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