RE: RARA-AVIS: The House of Hard-boiled

From: William Denton (
Date: 27 Mar 2003

On 27 March 2003, Mark Sullivan wrote:

: Let me draw an analogy. I don't drink, so I am largely unaware of and
: indifferent to names of drinks and brands of alcohol. In case you
: haven't noticed, these come up a lot in hardboiled books, including, if
: not especially those of Pelecanos. However, I far prefer the use of
: detail, even if it passes me by.

I know practically nothing about cars, and the differences between them don't matter to me at all. They do to the people in SOUL CIRCUS: Derek Strange drives one kind, Terry Quinn has a '68 muscle car, and the bad guys take pride in what they drive (and make fun of a pair of cousins who drive a low-end Datsun or something). I have no idea how to tell one model from another, but when they talk about cars, they come alive, and along the way, I do learn a bit about, uh, shorties and hoopties.

Mr. Robison said all these reference were an inside joke. I say they're inside, but they ain't no joke. The people talk about what they love--music, movies, cars, booze, drugs, books--and they become real, because it's them talking, not Pelecanos sketching a character by listing his CD collection and the TV dinners in his freezer. It's not only what they talk about, but how, and when Derek Strange goes on about the Delfonics and Stylistics, you can tell what the music means to him, and how it's part of what makes him what he is. The references and names come naturally out of the people (granted, they're people who like to talk about music a lot).


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.

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