RARA-AVIS: Re: Book review in Journal of Social History

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 09 Apr 2004

Mr. Taboada said:

: His theory on why readers read pulp stories seems dubious. Why not
: assume that a colorful mystery with colorful characters generally draws
: the reader in, period? Everyone wants to be an adventurer and a
: detective. It's fun to read about someone else being those things. I
: suspect that this type of story is read for much the same reasons pulp
: stories were read eighty years ago.

Sure, that's one reason, same as for swashbucklers and romances and epic fantasy. But the hardboiled stuff is especially concerned with behaving morally--walking the mean streets and all that. We've talked about that here before and how readers pattern themselves on heroes like Marlowe or Travis McGee, not just in their imagination, but in real life. It's still like that: George Pelecanos's books are about males working at being men, having jobs, supporting families, staying clean, learning lessons like how
"last man standing, wins" cuts two ways. Plus, there are gunfights and lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll,

"Ads urged readers to remake themselves into real men; Black Mask fiction gave them role models," Smith's book said. The role model angle isn't news, but it's intriguing how the ads and the stories tied together (if they did) to show readers how to live. Hell, if they were manuals to class, society, clothes, behaviour, speech, and women, readers were certainly getting their money's worth.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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