Re: RARA-AVIS: How much Background?

Date: 12 May 2003


Re your comments below:

> Just to pose a question: do we really want to get
> into the childhood of characters?

It depends. But as Miker points out, though with humor, childhood memories aren't all that new in hardboiled. In THE MALTESE FALCON, Spade briefly recalls his schooldays. In an early Mike Shayne novel, Shayne recalls going to church with his mother as a child (something, it's implied, he hasn't done much since reaching adulthood).

Joe Friday lived with his mother in the earliest days of DRAGNET, and occasionally, when he'd bring a girl home to meet Mom, Joe'd be embarassed by some childhood antic Mrs. Friday would recount.

More recently, in what may be Bill Pronzini's best
"Nameless" novel, the PI hero recalls growing up in San Francisco and how his father abused his mom. Gabe Wager recalls what it was like growing up hafl-Latino and half-Anglo in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood in one of Rex Burns's cop novels. James Bond recalls growing up without parents when he decides to personally avenge the murder of his surrogate parent in one of the short stories collected in OCTOPUSSY. Matt Helm recalls hunting trips with his father and grandfather in one of Donald Hamilton's later entries in that series.

It's not just a recent "touchy-feely" trend introduced to make mysteries seem more mainstream. The child is the father of the man as they say (although if they wanted to be politically correct, they'd probably say that the child is the parent of the adult), and insights into a character's early background help illuminate the person he is now.
> Do we care about the childhood of Phillp Marlowe,
> Sam Spade, Lew Archer, Travis McGee or even Mike
> Hammer?

Every one of those characters has alluded to, if not their childhood, per se, at least events in their lives prior to the commencement of the series they star in. And I doubt if there were many objections. Because such allusion give readers an insight into these character's personalities.
> Isn't childhood the inclusion of a character's
> childhood the publisher's, author's, or agent's
> way of getting into mainstream?

Less that than, as I said, a method of giving readers insights into the characters.
> As much as I think *Mystic River* was a great
> book, was it really a great mystery? Or was it
> mainstream with a crime element?

Yes, it was a mystery. No, it wasn't a mainstream novel with a crime element.

__________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 12 May 2003 EDT