RARA-AVIS: The Greatest of Them All?

From: Bill Bowers ( BBowers@one.net)
Date: 02 Jan 2003

Anent all the discussions of Chandler, Hammett. Macdonald, et al, and their
'lasting' influence, a mildly dissenting view:

>Though I don't expect to be around in another 100 years, it would be
>interesting to see which American crime writers of our time are considered
>giants of their art in 2103. Because this field only took root in the
>early 20th century, the mantle of "greatness" has barely been extended
>beyond the holy triumvirate of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross
> But what about Bill Pronzini, the veteran California writer whose
> 28th Nameless Detective novel, SPOOK (Carroll & Graf), is out this month?
> The same sort of thing that can be said about Edward Kennedy (that during
> his 40 years in the U.S. Senate, he's had a greater effect on American
> society than either of his more famous, but shorter-lived brothers) might
> well be said of Pronzini: that with his Nameless series, he's turned out
> a much more substantial body of heralded work than what was produced by
> Hammett (who published five novels), Chandler (who published seven) or
> even Macdonald (with 24 novels, 18 of which featured P.I. Lew Archer).
> Yes, some of his early books -- including the first Nameless outing, THE
> SNATCH (1971) -- were fairly workmanlike and derivative. But the almost
> 60-year-old Pronzini has matured over the years, and allowed his San
> Francisco sleuth (who's only ever been identified vaguely as "Bill" in
> the books) to change with him. This evolution has often been precipitated
> by personal crises, such as Nameless' cancer scare in BLOWBACK (1977) --
> which finally led him to rethink his life and to marry in 1995's HARDCASE
> -- but that doesn't make them any less important. Or extraordinary, for
> that matter. By contrast, Robert B. Parker's Boston P.I., Spenser, has
> been dating/living with his girlfriend, Susan Silverman, since GOD SAVE
> THE CHILD (1974), yet their relationship has barely progressed beyond
> acquiring a dog together. And while Spenser has hardly aged over three
> decades, Nameless has stayed fairly current with his creator,
> experiencing a range of health problems and shifts of perspective that
> seem unavailable to Parker's consistently tough gumshoe.

[...much more]

excerpted from the Latest issue of:
>* * *
>"The Rap Sheet" is written exclusively for January Magazine by crime
>fiction editor J. Kingston Pierce.
>To read previous editions of "The Rap Sheet," go to:
> http://www.januarymagazine.com/crfiction/rapsheet.html
>If you'd like to subscribe to "The Rap Sheet," go to:

...which is highly recommended to anyone interested in mystery/crime fiction.

I'm one of those weird ones who only reads a 'series' when he can start from the beginning, so while I _have_ read _all_ the readily available Chandler, Hammett & Macdonald canons (and, yes, every one of the 'popcorn' Spenser series) -- I only recently managed to fill in the remaining gaps in my 'Nameless' collection....

Should I move them a notch or two up the already towering TBR pile...?

Bill Bowers

"Max Collins once told me that he had the books of three of his favorite writers on one shelf--Tucker Coe, Donald Westlake and Richard Stark--before he found out they were the same person." --- Bob Randisi | Rara-Avis
"You mean Sam Holt didn't make it?" --- Mark Blumenthal | ibid.
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