Re: RARA-AVIS: Someone who doesn't like Pelecanos

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 02 Jul 2004

Hi Bill-

Anyone who has paid any attention to what I have to say about George P. should have expected that I would weigh in on this one.

Bill Denton wrote:

> From an interview with Trevor Maviano, at
> | But these are all guys that at least know their way around. Someone like
> | Pelecanos, I call him the shoe salesman of crime fiction. His rhythms
> | are wrong. He tries awful hard to be gritty. That's how it comes off to
> | a guy like me, is tryin.... I find his stuff to be incredibly contrived,
> | in that it is trying to expand the genre into new areas, but I don't
> | [want] to hear preaching about racial division in the United States
> | mixed in with my crime fiction. I just want crime. If I want to read
> | something political, I'll read non-fiction for Christ's sake.
> I think that's pretty much wrong on all counts. Maviano later contradicts
> himself, saying, "My view of crime is different than some people's. I feed
> off a social conflict model, that I think Marx inspired quite a bit. I see
> crime for profit as being a political thing."

I went and read the relevant stuff from this interview and found that Trevor Maviano was interviewed by possibly the longest-winded interviewer in the history of mankind (and with David Frost around, that's saying something). Gene Gregorits putting his own pontificating into the interview of *Trevor Maviano* nothwithstanding, he did ask about Trevor's thoughts on crime fiction, and Maviano gives the above quotes, plus mentioning that he doesn't like Ellroy (I agree, but for different reasons), and he also doesn't like Elmore Leonard (which I think is nuts), and likens Pelecanos to Leonard
(I've read both, and I don't see it, either stylistically or subject matter-wise) to which the interviewer sort of agrees (during one of those portions of the interview where he interviews himself), after mentioning that he's actually never read any Elmore Leonard (we're all smart people on this list, so draw your own conclusions).

Based on what I read in this interview (and his observations over at the zine he co-edits with Neil Smith, _Plots With Guns_) Mr. Maviano is interested in cutting-edge, or even just "edgy" crime fiction. He's morally ambiguous himself and says that Pelecanos is moralist, and that comes through in his writing (I agree, although I don't mind that aspect of Pelecanos' work. I mind other things about Pelecanos' writing. I don't mind having a protagonist with a moral code, whatever it might be). He mentions having his own "street" experience, and how writing crime fiction is able to take him back to that place without the danger. Interesting observation. I don't like Pelecanos' writing for some of the reasons Maviano mentions (the way he sets up the conflict in his books, the 'acting tough' as opposed to 'being tough' part as well. It just rings false to me).

No offense to Mr. Maviano, but the impression I got here (and I've never read any of his fiction) is that this is a fellow who does not lack for confidence (that's good), and knows what he likes (also good), and what he doesn't (likewise). He's not going to do himself any favors by needlessly alienating "mainstream crime fiction" fans (whoever that is) by making broad distinctions about genre/subgenre/areas of interest. I've found that there are readers out there who might want to read Marcel Proust one day and Cornell Woolrich the next, and most readers have varied tastes. I for one
(speaking as both reader and writer) can't exist on a steady diet of
*anything* for too long.

Good ol' Trevor's also not going to win friends and influence people by loudly proclaiming that roughly 90% of crime fiction is crap (because he doesn't like it). That just makes a guy look arrogant. And I agree with Joy and her comments about the "me too" insular nature of the tone of this interview. I guess it'll be interesting to read "Three Way Split" once/if he gets it published.

Of course, next on the angenda is my copy of our own Allan Guthrie's "Two Way Split," which I am eagerly anticipating on its way from

All the Best-

Brian Thornton

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