RARA-AVIS: Two-for-One: Hardboiled Comedy AND Hansen

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 08 Mar 2005

Two comic series come to mind: Jonathan Latimer's Bill Crane series from the thirties and -- get this -- Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, now playing at a paperback rack near you.

Both swing wildly from the most almost surreal, screwball moments to some truly nasty violent episodes. Don't know about the later Plums, but the early ones probably warped a whole generation of romance and cozy readers looking for light escapist froth.

(Well, they are light froth, but there are definite hard-boiled chunks in them).

And I'll go with Mark on Bruen. Definitely a funny guy, in a bleak, black way. Robert Parker can also be quite funny with the wisecracks, particularly in the Spenser books, but hands-down the funniest
"straight" writer in hard-boiled is Chandler. Give him a smokey night club and a mike, and Marlowe would have been great at stand-up. The same sort of anger that fuels the best comics isn't all that different from what runs through Marlowe.

So this guy walks into a bar, no bigger than a beer wagon...

Probably one of the most humorless, on the other hand, is Hansen, at least in his crime fiction. Brandstetter's few wisecracks are so dry they're almost a fire hazard. and that's actually another thing he has in common with Ross Macdonald. But whereas Macdonald wrote in a very descriptive poetic, almost damp sort of way, Hansen was one of the most terse, dry crime writers since Hammett, maintaining a sparse spare prose style that hardly anyone uses anymore.

Brandstetter made Joe Friday look like a motormouth. Another things I always dug was how Hansen would jump the story ahead between chapters and scenes, expecting the reader to catch up, and make the connections. For example, a name would be mentioned in passing in one scene, the next scene would kick off with Brandstetter already at the guy's house, interrogating him.

Thank you, I'll be here all week...

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site 75 Years of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon http://www.thrillingdetective.com

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 08 Mar 2005 EST