Re: RARA-AVIS: No Orchids and Orwell and Solomon's Vineyard

From: Steven Harbin (
Date: 02 Jan 2005

Al, I remember when reading the essay that the thought came to my mind, "Boy, Orwell would have REALLY hated Jim Thompson...and I don't even want to think about Brent Easton Ellis..." But then, that streak of unpredictable curmudgeoness is what I always liked about both Orwell and Mencken also.
  Along the topic of hard boiled/noir/morally ambiguous novels of the 1940's, I wanted to toss out, wasn't Jonathan Latimer's SOLOMON'S VINEYARD published in England unexpurgated about this time, but then it had to be cut or censored for it's American printing? Does anyone else remember if I'm correct on that?
  Steven H.

Al Guthrie <> wrote:
----- Original Message ----- From: "Steven Harbin" <>
>He appears to have detested what it and it's popularity stood for, while
realizing that it was still well written.

As you say, Steven. Next time I'll read the whole essay before quoting from it. So, yes, Orwell's clearly no fan of hardboiled literature. Prefers his cricket-playing gentleman thieves. "No Orchids" takes an unfair bashing for being the most overt and succesful example of the American colonization of English popular crime fiction. But dissing an entire sub-genre hardly tells those of us who enjoy that particular sub-genre whether a book is any good.
"A brilliant piece of writing", which is how Orwell describes it, does.

Interesting comments on the expectations of the times. Among other things, Chase gets it in the neck for daring to blur the lines between good and evil, which is apparently okay in "a serious novel" but not in "lowbrow fiction" where "one still expects to find a sharp distinction between right and wrong and between legality and illegality."


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