From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 01 Aug 2002

In his interesting summary, John Williams wrote:

"There's certainly a younger generation of British crime writers with an explicit American influence."

John, as an American, I would agree that there is a US influence on a number of contemporary Brit writers like Rankin. However, I would argue that in some hands it was rendered original by the necessary changes made when it crossed the Atlantic, similar to the way Elvis, for instance, changed the blues and country songs he recorded, simply because he wasn't capable of sounding exactly like the originals. So the degree to which an artist screws up in imitating a model offers the potential of an originality to be nurtured.

I also believe there is a younger generation of British crime writers with an explicit British influence. For instance, I was surprised not to see Russell James in your summary. Although the blurb on the back of most of his books compares him to David Goodis, I think he's far closer to Ted Lewis. Most obviously, I don't think it's a coincidence that Payback follows a Carter's Return Home for a brother's funeral, though this Carter is named Floyd, not Jack. Even if we buy the Goodis comparison (which I can see, by the way), it is merely in their shared focus on the lowlife criminal element. James's characters are decidedly not Americans in UK drag.

For all intents and purposes, Nick Sharman is a US PI in UK drag (giving Mark Timlin his due, it works a lot better than the London version of the Big Sleep, even if it did feature Robert Mitchum as Marlowe), unlike John Milne's Jimmy Jenner who strikes me as a completely Brit PI, aware of some of the absurdities this entails.

Ken Bruen's Rilke on Black also clothed itself in US fashion, literally, with a main character who favored cowboy boots. By the time he got to The Hackman Blues and The White Trilogy, though, the US roots had been overshadowed. The first of the Trilogy, A White Arrest, has a running joke about how one cop wants his boss to read his prized collection of 87th Precinct novels to see how an investigation should be run.

James Hawes (can't believe his White Merc hasn't been made into a movie) and Nicholas Blincoe were the first of the new UK crime writers I ran across, both introduced to me by the British dance music magazine, Muzik. Then, while tracking down Derek Raymond shorts, I discovered the Serpent's Tail and Fresh Blood authors contained in the same anthologies. I felt like I had blundered on something new and exciting, a younger generation rattling cages. It had been a long time since I'd felt that with any US writer, not since George Pelecanos and/or Michael Cormany (early Ellroy, too, in style, but he didn't ally himself with youth culture, actually railed against it at times).


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