Re: RARA-AVIS: Another Heresy -- The Black Mask and other pulp fiction

From: Dennis Lynds (
Date: 04 May 2005

To Brian Thornton,

Maybe Barnum said that, but I think what you wanted to quote was HL Mencken's "No one ever went broke UNDER-estimating the American public."

Dennis Lynds

----- Original Message ----- From: "Brian Thornton" <> To: <> Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 7:29 AM Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Another Heresy -- The Black Mask and other pulp fiction

> My Pal Jack Bludis wrote:
> > Something that many of us at Rara_Avis miss is
> > that not all of Chandler and Hammett was great.
> > It's a comment rarely made here. Many of us seem
> > to have the opinion that just because C or H
> > wrote it, it must be good. Some of it is just
> > crap where we are treated ti the development of
> > the hardboiled genre.
> With his characteristic bluntness, Jack makes a salient point here. Hey
> Jack, been reading some Carrol John Daly, or something? Because you just
> described everything I've ever read by the guy! ;)
> > Many of their Black Mask stories were just "shoot
> > 'em ups." with little character develoment and
> > hardly any story line. For me, even *Red
> > Harvest,* a combination of six novellas with each
> > judged individually, is just a shoot 'em up.
> I can see what you're saying about RED HARVEST, but let's face it, the
> Continental Op in RED HARVEST is as effete, fussy and mincing as Hercule
> Poirot when compared to the two-fisted head-stomping of Mickey Spillane's
> Mike Hammer in *anything* he's ever done. Some of Hammett's stuff is just
> uneven, too. Take WOMAN IN THE DARK (Please!). I finished that and
> wondered, what the heck is the point? That's something I found myself
> nearly always asking with Spillane. Likewise with "Blackmailers Don't
> Shoot." Lord, was that putrid. I couldn't believe Chandler was actually
> able to sell it when I first read it.
> > It was the demand of the pulp fiction crime story
> > of the day. Others who wrote this stuff are
> > forgotten beccause they never went on to write
> > great novels as Chandler and Harris did.
> Oh, I don't know. Has Mickey Spillane's stuff ever gone out of print?
> There are modern authors who get high praise here who I also think fit
> this bill: forgetable, cliched faire, that won't stay in print long. But
> with apologies to Mr. Barnum, no one ever went broke over-estimating the
> good taste of the American public.
> I hasten to add that there are authors out there who do violence with a
> point, and do a damned fine job of it. That great Irish scribe Ken Bruen
> comes to mind (and not just because he's a personal mate of mine, the guy
> writes scenes that make me want to look away, but because he's such a
> good writer, I just can't bring myself to do it, I have to keep turning
> page. Not every crime writer can do that), then there's our own Al
> who can make you want to turn the page when a man's mother is killed in
> horrific fashion right before his (and our) eyes. No mean feat, that.
> Also, just off the top of my head (because I finished his second novel not
> that long ago), there's Sean Doolittle, whose BURN is a satisfying, funny
> hard-boiled read.
> However, for every Hammett or Chandler, guys who sounded the odd sour note
> in what was otherwise an outstanding symphony of work, there were (and
> continue to be) dozens of others just piling up the bodies with no other
> purpose than to write gratuitous, book-selling, page-turning violence.
> Your Mileage May Vary.
> Back To Lurkdom (got a deadline)-
> Brian Thornton
> RARA-AVIS home page:
> Yahoo! Groups Links

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