RARA-AVIS: The limits of experience

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 21 Jan 2003

In a message dated 1/21/03 6:57:44 PM Eastern Standard Time, Kevin writes:

 While the Hardman books do have plenty of moments of true grit, and
 he writes the hell out of the Atlanta setting, there's also an
 element of "gee whiz over-the-topness" about them that actually makes
 them great fun to read, a sort of down-and-dirty version of Spenser
 and Hawk. I don't think you have to necessarily live in the gutter to
 know what you're talking about, though occasionally it helps. And
 maybe if Dennis hadn't known the alley life so well, his books would
 have been a bit better written (some of them seem pretty cranked
 out), and he'd still be with us, still writing kickass books. I think
 the only thing "absolute" in that statement is that the guy who wrote
 it wants to sell those books.

I completely agree with you Kevin. Experience cannot compensate for a lack of craft although it can at times augment. For example, Dennis' PIMP FOR THE DEAD opens in The Stein Club, which was a real bar in Atlanta. The scene has to work and achieve believability for the average reader who never set foot in the Stein Club. Regardless of whether it had a real world model or not, the writer has to have the craft to make it real. Now if it does have a real life model and the writer is successful in conveying the scene, those few who know the model get an extra kick. But the key is writing ability no matter if the scene is based on a real model or just imagination.

While we are at it, Ralph Dennis did not to me display great knowledge of
"the gutter." What I recognize are ordinary places and settings that anyone moving around Atlanta in the 1970s would recognize...restaurants, hotels, neighborhoods and so forth. Not really the gutter.

And Dennis was cranking them out in the 70s and you are right Kevin, it shows at times. What I appreciate is that within the framework of the numbered paperback hero, he managed to breath more life into the volumes he churned out at a speed fast enough to support himself.

Richard Moore

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