RARA-AVIS: Definitions - Smefintions

From: David L. Wilson ( dwilson@sccn.net)
Date: 03 Oct 2005

Hey - O ---

I don't want to be one to belittle anyone's ideas about definitions and god knows definitions can be convenient, just so long as all parties know exactly what it is that is being defined. The rest of you can go
"discuss" it, back behind the typewriter. That's entertaining too.

Over the last -- wow -- nearly thirty years I've interviewed W.R. Burnett, Jonathan Latimer, Bob Wade, Dorothy Hughes, Richard Maibaum, A. I. Bezzerides, Judson Philips, Wyatt Blassingame, Bill Cox, Richard Sale, Robert Bloch, John Bright, Howard Browne, Talmage Powell, William Campbell Gault, Robert Colby, Dennis Lynds, George Harmon Coxe, Roy Huggins, Sid Fleischman, Dean McGaughy and a couple other notables. I'm writing fast so I apologize for any misspellings that have crept in. Now, with a new-found sense of my own mortality, I'm trying to push this heap of data into a book form and it looks like its going to be at least in part a Q and A form because frankly, I don't know if I have enough time for anything else. So try to find some commonality with this group. Noir, mystery, hard-boiled? Maybe all these things.

My mentor, Niven Busch, has barely appeared in these discussion, but I think you'll find the opening pages of his novel, The Hate Merchant, to be about as tough as it gets.

It's nice to share the thoughts of the knowledgeable correspondents on this list. For years I've had difficulty explaining to people exactly what it is that I've been doing. Usually if I use the word "mystery" people start to understand, though there's hardly a mystery amongst the mountain of books produced by this mob.

And time changes things. Writing has become more inclusive. Though I cherish the writing, and the memory of Dorothy Hughes, my group, the old-timers, was primarily a male club. Women were not even permitted at many of the get-togethers and if you look through the old pulps, you don't find many women's names on the tables of contents. It may not be politically correct, nor genetic, but I'm not too intimidated to label the writing, historically, as a male domain.

So I tell people that I'm writing two books. A funny one, with the cartoonist Rick Geary (who of course has done his beautiful graphic novels on Jack the Ripper, H.H. Holmes, Lizzie Borden, and the assasinations of James Garfield and Abraham Lincoln), and the crime book.

I use the definition of Mike Tildon, the well-respected editor of the
"Dime" series of Popular Publications pulps. He called it
"crime-adventure". That works for me, as well as that pantheon of scribblers I've been fortunate enough to meet.

Thanks for the chance for a little bit of an introduction and the shameless plugging.

David L. Wilson Downieville, CA

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