Re: RARA-AVIS: Name Your Poison

From: Karin Montin (
Date: 24 Aug 2006

You make a lot of good points, Kevin.


At 08:56 AM 24/08/2006 -0700, Kevin Burton Smith wrote:
>Well, you do realize it was always a fantasy, right?
>Fiction is not real life. Fiction has to make sense of some sort.
>Real life doesn't operate under those restrictions.
>Even Hammett's so-called "realism" was pretty much a romanticized and
>tidied-up version of life in the Pinks (a quick perusal of his
>article "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective" is mostly tall
>tales and bullshit), just as Chandler's take was a romanticized
>version of the lone wolf operator.
>Despite the claims of "realism," most hard-boiled fiction is every
>bit as much of a fictional construct as the rosiest of cozies -- it's
>just that the disbelief is suspended in another area. When reading
>fiction, we always have to suspend a certain amount of disbelief --
>some genres may ask us to suspend more disbelief than others, but
>ultimately all genre preferences simply boil down to which poisons
>and how many of them we're willing to swallow.
>But who cares if the trappings have changed? In Hard-Boiled Land, the
>cops are still hostile and daughters still go missing. Fortunately,
>the streets are just as mean as they ever were. And whether he's got
>a cellphone in his pocket or a pencil and notebook, and an iBook back
>at the office or a long-suffering secretary, eventually, down those
>mean streets a man must go. Even if he's a woman. Or gay. Or black.
>Or even -- GASP!!! -- non-American.
>So yeah, the bits and pieces may change and the detective himself may
>not be your grandfather's detective, but some things never change.
>Justice must still be done, and one person can make a difference, if
>they're hard enough and true enough.
>So whether it's Marlowe looking for yet another lost young girl,
>Archer probing into some 40-year old family scandal or some new kid
>on the block looking into some fake AIDS drug scam or a missing rap
>musician , a lot of people will be willing to follow the detective.
>Actual realism isn't the driving factor for fiction -- it's the
>illusion of reality (peppered with an occasional universal truth)
>people buy into.
>I mean, God help a world where there are adults who actually think
>something like I, THE JURY is "realistic." I recently re-read it in
>prep for a local mystery readers group I moderate, and I tell ya, I
>ended up shaking my head in disbelief so many times my neck is sore.
>I, THE JURY is as convoluted and artificial as any cozy ever written.
>But what the hell -- it's still a great read!
>Pure popcorn, as the Mick might say.

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