RARA-AVIS: Nebulous geography

From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 06 Aug 2002

Jim Doherty writes of some Burnett novels:

<< all set in the same unnamed
 Midwestern metroplis. Some say the city was a
 fcitionalized Chicago. Kathy Harper thought it was
 either Toledo or Youngstown (Burnett's home state was
 Ohio). >>

I'm reading GM 822, "Man on the Run" by Charles Williams, which I'll report on when I'm done. One thing that struck me though was the unnamed locale
(and then Jim Doherty mentions something similar above). It's a gulf port with a few hundred thousand inhabitants, but it also has cold weather/sleet
(Does it sleet in Galveston or Mobile, or is it a different gulf?) Can someone say something about the trends in/imperative toward naming your city?
 McBain's fictional city is obviously New York, but there are other fictional cities that could be any medium-sized port city, or a moderate-sized midwestern city. I thought that maybe the hope was that readers would imagine their own city or a city they knew and inject themselves into the scene, so to speak. Do publishers and readers today want places named? A couple years back I read a novel set in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, that would've been better if the setting had been an unnamed fictional city. (Though the great crime novel of Portland -- Kent Anderson's Night Dogs -- benefits from its geography (at least to my local ear)). Doug

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