RARA-AVIS: What about B.Traven?

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 18 Nov 2002

If our definition of hard-boiled stretches to include Dos Passos (an old favorite of mine), then it should also be broad enough to include B. Traven. I fell for THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE when I was 13 and it is still one of my all time favorite novels.

Beyond TREASURE, there are the other novels and stories of Gale the American down south, such as THE COTTON PICKERS and "The Cattle Drive." Several of the short stories in the Harlan Ellison edited STORIES BY THE MAN NOBODY KNOWS (Regency 1961) include several originally published in that later-day Bible of the hard-boiled "Manhunt." But in novel length, I doubt anything by Traven is more hard-boiled than his first novel THE DEATH SHIP, first published in Germany in 1926 and then by Knopf in 1934 in the US. "And don't you ever think you get paid here. Not in your life-time. What you get is advances and advances. Just enough to get drunk and get a dame under your legs. Sometimes there is just a bit left to buy a shirt, a pair of pants, or new clogs. You never get enough to buy you a complete outfit. You see, if you look like a respectable citizen, you might get some ideas into your head and walk off and become alive again. Nothing doing. Get trick now? As long as you haven't got money, and as long as you are in rags, you cannot get away here. You stay dead." Welcome to the good ship Yorikke.

On another topic, there was a string a few days ago about books on writing. One specific to suspense writing worth checking out is WRITING SUSPENSE AND MYSTERY FICTION edited by A.S. Burack (The Writer 1977). This consists mostly of articles from The Writer magazine but also includes reprints of importance by Chandler, Haycraft, Sayers and Van Dine. Of the articles, I remember finding those by Bill Pronzini, Joe Gores, Stanley Ellin and John Lutz to be interesting and useful.

There is also an article by Albert F. Nussbaum, robber turned writer who we have discussed here before, that has a great opening, beginning with the line
"I was sitting at one of the four-place tables in the mess hall of the U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas." One of Nussbaum's major points is that among themselves prisoners seldom deny guilt. Sometimes they even pretend to greater offenses in order to gain status and acceptance...such as a check passer pretending to be a bank robber.

Now I may never use that piece of knowledge but somehow it is interesting to have learned it.

Richard Moore

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