Re: RARA-AVIS: long post on spillane

From: Randy Schultz (
Date: 24 May 2002

On Fri, 24 May 2002 12:33:45 -0700 "Ron Clinton" <> writes:
> > about 20 pages into the book i was thinking i wasn't going
> > to be able to finish it. the dialogue wasn't so hot and
> > it was obvious the characters were never going to amount to
> > much more than unbelievable, shallow, two-dimensional props
> > for the plot.
> I just finished TOGETHER WE KILL, the new Spillane short-story
> collection
> put out by Five-Star. For the most part, pretty good stuff...but
> when I
> tried taking that rediscovered enthusiasm to an older Spillane
> novel, the
> enthusiasm didn't seem to sustain.
> Perhaps Spillane -- for some of us -- is a dish best served in
> small
> portions.

Well, I'm probably being guilty of defending what is, after all, only my opinion on Spillane, but he is hardly an expansive author who bites of more than he can chew. For me, his stories are direct and to the point, and he has no artifice whatsoever. And, as someone who in general has read alot of the largely generic crime fiction of that time, I think he stands well out of the crowd.

And as for small doses, I feel that way about most crime fiction. I recently got a Hammett omnibus out of the library, and after reading the Glass Key and Dain Curse, I really felt like I didn't want to read any more Hammett for awhile. As I said, these are all just opinions, and I don't think any one opinion is more 'defensible' than another, but I have to say I am really surprised that there is, what appears to be, such a lukewarm reception to Spillane, because I have always found him to be exceptionally good at what he does.

I have always felt there are two types of stories in the 'thriller' genre
(which, to me, includes HB crime fiction, spy fiction, and the like). 1. The type of mystery where the plot is the star, and the characters are merely ways of moving the plot along (Many Christie novels fall into this category -- they are more like puzzles, rather than stories). 2. The type of mystery where the protagonist is the star and the plot is merely a way to show the protagonist expressing his/her rather unique viewpoint/language/thoughts/feelings. I would put Hammer in this category, as I would Chandler, Hammet, Jim Thompson. The fun of the story is in the telling, not in the plotting.


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