Re: RARA-AVIS: Flincher

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 15 Mar 2005

Miker wrote:

> Chris M wrote:
> One side note: could you or someone else make a case
> for what I'm missing with Rankin? I love Pelecanos,
> Lehane, Sallis, Bruen, McDermid, Connelly etc. and it
> seems like Rankin is alsways included with that lot.
> ***********
> On-stage violence? Rankin avoids it. The word
> "unflinching" is used fairly often in describing
> hardboiled. Rankin is a flincher.

I can think of literally thousands of scenes of violence in both print and film that I have witnessed in one form or another and after a while, they all begin to run together. Yet the shower scene in "Psycho" with not a blow showing as having landed, stands out in my memory, likewise the sequence of events surrounding the out-of-view deaths of Miles Archer ("The Maltese Falcon") and Taylor Henry ("The Glass Key"), so I'm not at all certain that it is "flinching" to forego what can many times be the "gratuitous" portrayal of violence. Rankin's style is the antithesis of, say, a Mickey Spillane. To dismiss Rankin as a "flincher" is to give more credit to Spillane and his ilk than he is due. After all, good writing is about maximizing the impact of one's narrative, regardless of the circumstances surrounding said narrative. And Hammett not only wasn't a "flincher," he was certainly no piker when it came to portraying violence in service of the story (see "Harvest, Red").

What's more, Lehane, Pelecanos and Connelly at least have shown that none of them handles a series, foregoing plotting cliches, etc., as well as Rankin does. Not to say they're not good writers (although I don't find Pelecanos to really be my cup of tea), just that stuff like "The Poet," "Mystic River" and "The Narrows," for example, is a lot more powerful and original than the Kenzie/Gennaro series (to use Lehane as merely one example), or the later Bosch novels (to use Connelly as another). After all, it's tough to keep a series fresh. Not a knock on them, just pointing out that it's tough to write a series without it getting stale. We've discussed that ad infinitum on this list with regard to the writing of other series PI stuff (see Parker, Robert B.). I see no reason to spare the current "Young (sic) Masters" (to borrow from another recent thread here) that same manner of scrutiny.

Oh, and Ken Bruen rocks.

My two cents.

Brian Thornton

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