RE: RARA-AVIS: EDWARD ANDERSON & Crime Time magazine

From: Robison Michael R CNIN (
Date: 27 Nov 2002

Hi Steve,

I've broke with tradition here and stuck my comments above yours, since your post is long and I couldn't really see any part to cut that I didn't have some kind of lie to respond with.

I felt the same as you about THIEVES LIKE US. I liked Keechie and Bowie. It was sad to see Bowie's dream of using the money to buy a farm and earn an honest living dissolved by the lure of easy money from bankrobbing. Anderson did such a great job with Keechie. She doesn't talk much, but you know what's going through her head. My feeling was that Keechie knew, more than any of the others, what road they were going down, and how it would end up. The scene where it becomes apparent that Keechie will use a gun speaks volumes, too. Notice how Anderson is vague in some of the scenes of violence? Smells like Faulkner to me. I thought it was questionable. It might have been OK for Faulkner, but Anderson's style is way more direct and straightforward than Faulkner, and to all of a sudden leave out a critical part of the story sort of sucked.

My grandparents had great stories about the 1920s and my parents had childhood memories of the Depression. And I agree with your comments about the 30s generating good writers. I've been trying to find 15 or 20 new authors for every decade. The Thirties were not a problem. The Forties required a bit more looking around. And the Fifties look like even more of a challenge.

I guess my politics started out on the left when I was a youth and has gradually shifted right as I've evolved into a crusty old redneck. But the left-winging of the 30s and 40s have got some strong historical justifications behind them. With the industrial revolution not far in the past, there were few restraints on capitalism, and it tended to step on people. Dickens played that tune. And then there were the muckrakers from the pre-1920 era. Upton Sinclair's THE JUNGLE has got some absolutely great parts in it about the meatpacking industry.

Surf around at and see what you can find. I think the tricky part is that at the crimetime site they want a check sent to them for back issues, and you have to go to some UK online bookstore to buy the back issues with a credit card. I can't remember how I got that done. Email me if you can't figure it out, and I'll dig around and see what I can find.


***************************** Steve Harbin wrote:
  I just finished THIEVES LIKE US, after reading THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, and THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?, and found Anderson's tale of bank robbers in the depression southwest to be compelling. It wasn't as "hard to put down" as the Cain or the McCoy, and it seemed more "dated" than those two, but it still was a good read. One of the things I look for in any fiction is the ability of the author to make me care about what happens to the characters, and Anderson did well at this, making Bowie a sympathetic focus of the novel. It was easy to understand his motivations and actions.

Regarding the dated or 1930's feel to the novel, I don't always view this as a negative, and certainly didn't in this case. The 1930's era has always been of supreme interest to me, both because I used to teach high school history and because my parents and grandparents used to always tell such interesting stories of the time and place. It's probably not beyond the realm of possibility that some of my ancestors might not have gone the THIEVES LIKE US route to survive. Which is partly Anderson's point, I think. The overwhelming bad times of the Great Depression seems to have produced a large number of writers who could sympathize with the downtrodden and the underdog and even the criminal.

My own take is a little more to the right of these 1930's guys, but then had I lived through those times I would probably have viewed the world in a manner similar to theirs. Interestingly enough, the brief biography on Anderson at the back of Library of America's CRIME NOVELS OF THE 30'S AND 40'S mentions that at the end of his life he "espoused extreme right wing political views, along with religious beliefs based on Swedenborgianism". I am unaware of the term, can anyone enlighten me? Steven (off to search engine for "Swedenborgianism")

Regarding the Anderson article, how do I get in touch with Crime Time to order a copy? If this has already been mentioned on the list I apologize.

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