Re: Seminal works (Was: Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: Hunter and Leonard)

From: Al Guthrie (
Date: 30 Mar 2003

----- Original Message ----- From: <>

> I think it interesting to note how Leonard said he didn't "learn" anything
> from Chandler/Hammmett. It's semantics to me.
> Seminal works in any genre are those which influence future writers,
> This subject has been brought up on this list before, but I think it is
> relevant (particularly to this discussion).

It's highly debatable that Leonard writes in the same genre as Chandler.

> Although writers (and critics) are quick to note those worthies who came
> before and influenced them in a positive manner, it is a more difficult
> proposition to asssess which authors one has read that might influence one
> a negative manner.
> For instance, my disdain for the majority of the writings of James Ellroy
> well-documented on this list, and speaking as an heretofore unpublished
> of at least one full-length mystery novel, I can honestly say that the
> in-your-own-filth-both-real-and-metaphorical style of Ellroy's writing has
> fact had a negative influence on my own work (such as it is). In other
> I have been pushed away from writing things that might be hailed
> as "Ellroyesque", etc.

Well, yes, I can see that. But that's unusual. Although Leonard doesn't particularly enjoy Chandler's writing, he doesn't appear to manifest the extreme reaction towards his predecessor that you do towards Ellroy. Leonard simply doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

> I think that seminal books do that. They influence either positively or
> negatively, based upon any possible combination of power and originality.
> Thus, although Leonard (a man I consider to be a brilliant writer) may not
> have 'learned' anything from Chandler, I don't consider it much of a
> to say that there can be little question that he has been influenced by
> reading his work, even if he rejects it as "instructive."

Sorry to disagree, but I can think of a number of so-called "seminal" books that provoked little more reaction than yawning and, on occasion, even profound slumber. Here's the real test, then. In a parallel universe where Chandler was never born, would Elmore Leonard still have written THE SWITCH?


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