Re: RARA-AVIS: MacDonald, Crumley, et al (was Re: THE IVORY GRIN/MARKED FOR MURDER)

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 03 Dec 2004

--- Duane Spurlock <> wrote:
> Crumley is no shrinking violet in the influence
> department. His work shows violence, it's still
> literary, but I see his influence more on the
> outright crime novel -- on guys like Ellroy and
> Bruen. Again, this is my off-the-cuff,
> gut-feeling-this-morning postulation, not a
> declaration. I may well be far off base. And I enjoy
> reading what the rest of you think about these
> things. Helps me to clarify my own thoughts.

I've been going through a big backlog of rara-avis posts, so forgive me if it's been mentioned already
(or is ahead of me) but the obvious example of Crumley's influence is Kent Anderson's NIGHT DOGS, which is essentially "Crumley if he wrote a straightforward police procedural". (I think it's quite fine, despite it's debts.) Crumley wrote the introduction to Anderson's SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (not so good, I think) and there's obviously some kind of direct linkage.

I think Crumley is often cited as an influence nowadays because he's essentially become legendary. I'm not sure how much of it is really the case, though
-- and I say this as a great admirer of the man and his work. I don't read a lot of books that "feel" like they owe much to Crumley.

One sees a bit of it, maybe, in a general sense of pained romanticism (Pelecanos comes to mind) and in an unapologetic roiling around in drinking and drug taking. But you can imagine other sources for that, too (Bukowski, for example.)

A far more obvious nfluence from the same time period is Parker: few people praise the Spenser novels anymore, but his influence seems to be pervasive -- the homicidal sidekick, the pi who forms an
"alternative" family, the love affair/soap opera, etc. Parker deserves credit for reimagining the genre: I don't especially like the result, but that's another post.

I think Ross MacDonald's influence was most felt in the Seventies, where there were many lonely PIs investigating small tragedies in catalytic ways. The worst of the books from that period are pretty dreary, but the best authors are memorable (consider the perpetually underrated Stephen Greenleaf, say, or Michael Lewin.)


===== Doug Bassett

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 03 Dec 2004 EST