RARA-AVIS: Raymond, Leonard, and Crews

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 15 Aug 2002

hi everybody!

I finished Derek Raymond's HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN at the end of last week. It was good. At first I moaned a bit about the artsy Hammett artifice of making the detective anonymous, but Raymond did a better job of it than Hammett. Raymond's good at both describing the bleak city landscape and the characters. Like Goodis, he can flesh out a vivid and sharp portrait of a character in two or three pages. Raymond sets his detective on the edge, and there's a chance that he might lose his balance and take the plunge and end up in the moral abyss with most of the other characters.

Raymond is good at describing the lowest you can ima- gine, and then jerking the floor out from beneath you and letting you see how much further there is to go. He describes an abandoned apartment:

"Torn paper and old rent books were spread all over the floor, there was a stripped bedstead with one leg jacked up on a brick; a urine stain in the centre of the mattress curled importantly in the material like the dirty oval frame of an old picture; a stock of horror comics had toppled over in a corner. The room opposite was the same except that the wallpaper was peeling off and it stank worse because the bucket that had been used to piss in hadn't been emptied. 'Christ,' I muttered,
'who'd be a copper?' The back room had been converted into a bathroom and toilet; a rat slid up the wall as I opened the door, with a flick of its fat tail."

Now this is pretty darned bad. But then he makes it all that much worse:

"I was surprised no squatters had moved in..."

The last time I read such a shocking description of the conditions of poverty was the scene in Earl Thomp- son's A GARDEN OF SAND where Jack peers around the door while the officials are hauling off the drug addicts who did the murder/suicide thing.

I WAS DORA SUAREZ sits on the shelf, waiting for me to quit being so damned anal and repeat an author.

**************** I read a short novel called 52 PICKUP, by Elmore Leonard, over the weekend. It was an interesting and enjoyable story, with a good plot and well-drawn characters. But it didn't move me. Austin Powers would say, "No mojo, baby." The plot had plenty of room for tension, but the narrative never found it. It was still a fun ride.

**************** I just finished Harry Crews's A FEAST OF SNAKES. This was an intelligent and powerful and moving book. I hated the ending. I expected something a little more interesting. I was very disappointed. Are there any Crews fans out there who can recommend any of his other books? I think I kinda like country noir. I'd say Benedict's THE DOGS OF GOD fits this subgenre, and I liked it a lot. Hardboiled hot nasty noir. I'm starting to see some common threads, like using animal scenes as an allegory for the human situation. THE DOGS OF GOD had that scene where the wild pigs smash thru a house, totalling it. A FEAST OF SNAKES has rattlesnakes feeding and pit bulls fighting. I think the message is that animals are not good or evil, but yet their actions can easily be seen as such, which should lead one to thinking that labelling any behavior, man or animal, as good or evil is misleading and naive at best, and a gross perversion of the truth at worst. I think this is what Cormac McCarthy was selling in BLOOD MERIDIAN, too, only he used a total excess of human violence to deliver the point instead of animal scenes.

Has anybody read Erskine Caldwell's TOBACCO ROAD or GOD'S LITTLE ACRE? I'm going to read one of those, but I don't know which is better.



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