Re: RARA-AVIS: Paul Cain - Seven Slayers

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 28 Aug 2004

Have you read FAST ONE? Pretty extraordinary book -- something like THE GLASS KEY stylistically, but taken to the nth degree. Actually one of my favorite hb books from this period.

Is SEVEN SLAYERS in print? I've been trying to hunt that one down for a long time.


Currently rereading Crumley's BORDERSNAKES. I think it's clear that as time has gone on Crumley's plotting has become more and more of an afterthought. Both MEXICAN TREE DUCK and BORDERSNAKES are road novels, though, and a loose plot structure more or less fits there. BORDERSNAKES revisits some of the same themes as MEXICAN TREE DUCK, has the very bright idea to put Milo and Shugrue in the same book (among other things, the switching back and forth in pov gives the book some much needed narrative tension), and has Crumley's usual knockout sense of place.

Recommended. When Crumley's on he's more or less my ideal of what a hb writer shoud be -- the opening fight scene in BORDERSNAKES is a classic.

--- Paul Farrell <> wrote:

> I recently read Paul Cain's SEVEN SLAYERS, the
> collection of seven of Cain's
> 1930s Black Mask stories. Maybe it's because of my
> high expectations before
> reading it, due to Cain's huge hard-boiled
> reputation, but I found myself
> disappointed with many of the stories. While
> certainly readable, the
> writing style makes them feel unmemorable. The
> stories are made up
> predominantly of dialogue and descriptions of
> characters' actions. The
> dialogue is admirably terse, but is also rather flat
> and functional. The
> shortcomings of the style become particularly
> apparent in the stories with
> many characters ('Pineapple', 'Murder in Blue'),
> where you realise that
> there is little characterisation to differentiate
> them. The best story,
> IMO, was 'Pigeon Blood'. In this one, it felt like
> Cain was allowing his
> style to ease out a bit; there's more description of
> the settings, and the
> characterisation is much sharper.

===== Doug Bassett

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