RARA-AVIS: John Williams's comments

From: Michael Robison ( zspider@gte.net)
Date: 31 Jul 2002

Thats cool that you took the time to write out your thoughts and share them, John. I found your comments interesting and insight- ful. I do have a few comments:

John Williams wrote:
> Moderately sucessful - though generally morally and artistically
bankrupt -
> are the burgeoning ranks of the serial killer specialists - but that's a
> blight as well (then again I suppose serial killer novels more properly
> belong to the horror tradition than the h/b).

"Generally" is the keyword here when you talk about the quality of serial killer novels. Generally, I'll read one by an author and then I've had enough. But I think that _Silence of the Lambs_ was a great book. For me, it rattled the foundations. I like that. I thought that Ridley Pearson's (sp?) _Undercurrents_ was good, too.

********** then JW says:
> These days the private eye is hard to take seriously in American fiction
> let alone British fiction.

Well, there really isn't a lot of new P.I. stuff out there, is there? I read Gores's _Cases_ about an apprentice P.I., but it was set in the early 50's. And Pelecanos's Nick, drunk, stoned, or sober, is very believable. But aside from those guys, not a lot pops into my mind. Of course, I've been wallowing in the past for the last few months so my memory is probably a bit rusty.

********** then JW says:
> ...especially the noir-horror crossover as
> written by the likes of Chaz Brenchley, Stephen Gallagher and Iain Banks.

I'll be darned! Someone mentions Iain Banks! He's an interesting and innovative author. I liked _Feersum Endjin_ (once I got past the pho- netic spelling) and _The Wasp Factory_, but could have done without
_Excession_. I'm not sure if he's hardboiled, but he definitely gets the noir tag.

********** then JW says:
> while newer writers - in the US just as the
> UK - have to struggle to emerge from the shadows of Ellroy, Leonard et
al -
> and are, ironically enough, in some ways limited by the very strength and
> popularity of the genre.

Yeah, maybe. But its been like this for quite a while, you know. Once there's such a thing as a genre, you're stuck with proceeding someone else. Near as I can tell, the present writers are doing a darn good job of creating their own intimidating shadows for future writers.

********* JW says:
> ...that maybe the most interesting way for the noir/hb writing to develop
> is to move out of the genre confines.

I think this idea has a lot of merit. And I think that the generally accepted rara-avis definition of hardboiled as "tough and colloquial" recognizes a lot of room for stretching within the genre.

In closing I would just reiterate that I enjoyed your assessment of the UK/ USA hardboiled scene, John.


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