RARA-AVIS: Big hardboiled epics

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 27 Sep 2004

I recently finished a big four-volume family saga and now I'm working on the last book in an immense three-volume SF epic (the new Neal Stephenson) and I got to thinking, "Man, I'm going to be ready for something fast and lean after this, a nice tight hardboiled thing with no padding." After a really long book, I like a classic Gold Medal or something in that style. It clears the palate.

On the other hand, I do like epics: huge, involved stories with lots of people, spanning years or decades, where you really get to know people, and you don't just see them in a moment of crisis, you get to see their whole lives.

Are there any hardboiled epics? I don't mean series, where each novel is pretty much a self-contained unit, usually with a hero who gets mixed up in a crime and solves it and then goes home. I mean something like Ellroy's LA Quartet, which is the only example that comes to mind. I don't know if he intended it to be four parts when he started, but it hangs together as one big work (albeit one that gets freakier as it goes along) and by the end it's like you've known Pete Bondurant all your life. Same for his next books, AMERICAN TABLOID and THE COLD SIX THOUSAND, and the next one which I think is supposed to wrap up his history.


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

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