Re: RARA-AVIS: What led to Dark Ride?

From: Stewart Wilson (
Date: 09 Sep 2005

Kent Harrington wrote:
> I was told to put "Dia De Los Muertos" in a drawer and forget about it. I've never forgotten that.

DIA was a fantastic book, cover to cover. It was the first book of yours that I read, based on the superlative reviews and remarks on this
  Rara-Avis. I was astonished that it hadn't become a massive bestseller. Here is what I wrote one friend in an email as soon as I finished it " It was so good, I didn't want to rush on while reading it; like a good meal -- I had to savour each morsel. You must acquire and read this book!" I then walked the book down the street to another friend and insisted he read it right away -- he told me a couple of days later it was the closest he's ever seen to the perfect crime novel. I am so glad that you didn't put it in a drawer. Last week, we had houseguests, and after a discussion of crime novels (he had only read Elroy, and was in the middle of the new Cormac McCarthy book), I described and recommended DIA knowing, unforetunately, that he wouldn't be able to find a copy easily. I gave him a copy of Crumley's LAST GOOD KISS as a consolation because I can always find copies of it, and wasn't about to lend my only DIA to a new aquaintance.

After first reading DIA, I followed up immediately with DARK RIDE. When RED JUNGLE was published, I phoned Dennis Macmillan to buy a copy, and finally, read AMERICAN BOYS last month. I've still not found a copy of THE TATTOOED MUSE, but I'm sure one will turn up eventually.

Sorry about the rambling -- now some questions.

> I had not read much crime fiction and never heard of Jim Thompson...
> I was writing novels but was unpublished. I had been so influenced
> by Hemingway's voice and others, Lawrence, a lot of the Brits they were
> seminal to my style and still are. ...

What became of the writing you were doing before DARK RIDE? Do those novels remain unpublished, or were they worked into the subsequent efforts?

> I didn't plan the book. I just sat down and wrote it.

How planned out were the others -- obviously DIA works within a strict framework timewise, and there was a hell of a lot to squeeze in. BOYS seems more off the cuff, as does JUNGLE.

Finally, perhaps you can explain your Guatemalan connection -- In DIA, two Guatemalans get a $9.50 ride, on their way to San Fransisco. The central BOYS character seems to have the same relationship to Guatemala that Russell in JUNGLE has, but parentally reversed.

   "Guatemalans are tough people," Calhoun said, looking into the mirror,
    enjoying it. "Look at them ... look at the kids. They're beautiful,"


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