Re: RARA-AVIS: Big hardboiled epics

From: E.Borgers (
Date: 28 Sep 2004


I second Mark for some of his selections.

David Peace and his Red Riding Quartet. Not only an epic, but the work of a real top class writer. Absolute noir in West Yorkshire. Far from the ridiculous SK gothic replays of so many best-sellers. I read only 3 of the series of 4, but it's enough to make my mind: Peace belongs to the kind of authors which appears once every ten years, when we're lucky! My advice: don't read the 4 books (1974-1977-1980-1983) in a row. Wait at least two weeks between 2 of them... IMO he is closer to Derek Raymond's universe than Ellroy's, but he shares some technique and the power of his writing with the second. Do not miss this series.

Derck Raymond's Factory cycle. The nameless sergeant is the centerpoint of 5 novels, making the entire cycle. I had myself some difficulties to find out about number 5 (Dead Man Upright- 1993), but it happens I finally read it last week. Dora Suarez and some other novels of the series were already discussed here, and I'm sure you'll remember it. We could say about the cycle it's a kind of personal quest of a loner tracking the evil in the gardens of Death. Noir, gripping and moving. A great writer.

Jim Sallis and his Griffin novels surely qualifies. An epic stretching over the entire life of his central Black character, told in non linear and fascinating stories. Could not be for everyone's taste, an exceptional construction with a quality of writing, all things being rare in HB/noir. Here, I strongly recommend to start with the first volume of the Griffin saga: The Long Legged Fly-1992, and to follow the order for the others of the series.

There's also some novels by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, were the epic already well developed in one volume could stretch over one or two more, like "The Shadow of the Shadow" (Sombra de la Sombra) prolonged by
"Returning as Shadows". He also mixes some historical events and recurrent characters across several of his other novels. Another great writer.

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries :

>Bill, I can think of a few epics of hardboiled lit besides Ellroy.
>First, there's the DC Quartet by George Pelecanos, which follows
>characters over several decades. I've only read the first of David
>Peace's Red Riding Quartet, but it would seem to qualify -- isn't that
>what gets him so many comparisons to Ellroy? And wouldn't the Lew
>Griffin books by Jim Sallis qualify? I'm not sure when he really
>started conceiving them as an epic, but they certainly work that way.
>Then there are a few I'd say are borderline epics, like Jim O'Connell's
>books. They don't really have characters in common, but I'd say they
>are an epic portrayal of a city, Quinsigamond. What about Derek
>Raymond's Factory Trilogy -- those first three in the series certainly
>seemed to be plotted together. Although the murders in each are solved,
>they seem to be parts of an overarcing story about the nameless DS
>investigating them. The two later additions, on the other hand, are
>just series books (not a put down, but they are more self-contained in
>my mind). I've only read Will Christopher Baer's first, Kiss Me Judas,
>but wasn't it supposedly conceived as the first in a trilogy? Has the
>third ever come out?

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