Re: RARA-AVIS: long post on spillane

From: Randy Schultz (
Date: 24 May 2002

On Fri, 24 May 2002 10:59:22 -0500 Robison Michael R CNIN
<> writes:
> i read recently somebody's comment that fiction should
> actually be "truer" than nonfiction, and there was a big
> spiel about why this should be. the rationale passed me
> by, but the premise didn't. when i read fiction, i'm
> looking for it to be "believable", and for it to have some
> sort of depth to stir some emotion in me or make me think.
> it looked to me like spillane was failing on both counts.

It's interesting you should single Spillane out on this. I think this is endemic to crime fiction in general (including many books mentioned here. Hammett and Chandler stories are hardly filled with fleshed out characters with deep, textured emotions).

At its heart, most crime fiction is very logical, and thus the feelings of the characters are sublimated by their motives (greed, lust, fear of being exposed). These are not things I would count as well developed emotions, but more like the most superficial of them. In most crime fiction, the characters/suspects are merely vehicles to move the story along, take you off the trail of the real criminal..etc.

For myself, I feel that I have different rules for different types of books. I read a lot of spy fiction, and the things I look for in a Bond book aren't necessarily the same things I expect or require when I read a Jane Austen book. Similarly, in crime fiction, I expect the protagonist to be believable, falliable, and the crime itself to be solvable by the information and intuition that is within the 'detective' of it.

As for Spillane's books, the words are direct, plain and perfectly keeping in the worldview and educational level of Hammer. He doesn't use big words or pull out a philosophy book and start reading it. And his character/words/emotions are in line with someone who needs to cut through a lot of noise in order to do his job. The right tool for the right job, you could say.


# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 24 May 2002 EDT