Re: RARA-AVIS: The Case of the Overrated Mystery Novel

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 06 Jan 2004

Gee, somehow I get the impression this guy doesn't like series crime fiction very much. However, it hardly seems fair to compare what he sees as the best of the very best (Chandler and Macdonald, Ross, at their peaks) with all of today's crop. Most of the contemporaries of those two would fail the same test. As a matter of fact, there's a large contingent that believes Macdonald is guilty of every one of this writer's complaints about contemporary crime writers, if not Chandler himself. And while we're at it, why should crime novelists, writing series or otherwise, be expected (or desired) to be purveyors of big-L Literature? They write crime fiction and should be judged by those standards. And they are different standards, as can be seen when most
"serious" novelists stoop to write in a genre (Auster, Denis Johnson and Lethem, if he's considered serios, aside); as much as I like some of his other books, I never got very far in Madison Smartt Bell's Straight Cut.

The article did make me wonder one thing, though:

"I can't prove this, but it seems to me that the Welty review started a trend: taking a detective writer and anointing him or her as not just a pulp writer (not just a Mickey Spillane) but a purveyor of literature (a Chandler)."

When was it that Chandler began to be considered a "purveyor of literature," at what point in his career? As a matter of fact, was he considered such before Macdonald was annointed? Wasn't it in retrospect?


# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# 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 : 06 Jan 2004 EST