RARA-AVIS: Re: Who Zoomed Who?

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 04 Dec 2004

Sorry about the late response -- I evidently originally posted it to the wrong list. The Calico Cats Who Solve Crimes List is sure gonna be perplexed.

Anyway, I guess I didn't make myself as clear as I should have when I was speaking about influences. Of course there's more to it than mere popularity, but there has to also be more to it than just some writer saying "I was influenced by so-and-so." Like justice, it doesn't just have to have been said to have been done, but has to be seen to have been done.

Which is why I tried to make the distinction between influence and inspiration. Lippmann can claim to have been influenced by Crumley, but it's hard to see, for example, much Crumley in Tess Monahan. Certainly nobody would have picked it up without her mentioning it. Or did I missed all those reviews of the "Crumleyesque" CHARM CITY?

Same with Collins' well-known trumpeting of Spillane. Except for the intentional and often-stated inversion of Spillane in the previously mentioned MS. TREE, I don't see lots of the Mick's influence in Collins' work. (But what do I know -- I always thought Hammer was just better-written Race Williams that happened to tap into the right cultural mood at the right time. Collins has always been aiming for bigger game than that, or at least with his Heller, Ness and Perdition books).

Whereas it's pretty easy to spot the obvious links between Chandler and Macdonald, or Parker and Crais, for example, whether those influences are admitted or not.

And writers' stated influences can be a funny thing. Like the self-published author a few years back who name-dropped a certain cult pulp writer so often that every half-ass reviewer of the newcomer's book felt obliged to name-drop the same author as well. Sometimes you wonder if they actually read the book, or just each other's reviews and the PR. Sometimes a stated influence is just a negligible author trying to sneak into the literary respect room through a sidedoor. And, as in the case of real talents like Pelecanos or Lippmann or Collins sometimes a personal influence isn't quite the same thing as a literary influence.

Anyway, like Mark, I dread when Bruen (or Ellroy, for that matter) become influential to the point where they inspire pale imitators. There's a stylistic tightrope there some of these literary clodphoppers can't ever hope to take more than a few steps on.


Kevin Burton Smith
The Thrilling Detective Web Site Holiday Issue New stories and the 2004 Thrillies. http://www.thrillingdetective.com

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