RARA-AVIS: Re: How The Liberals Are Screwing Up Crime Fiction!!!

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 05 Sep 2006


Re your response to my comments below:

"Hmmm.... 'as many?' That's three. And two of them belong mostly to another, definitely more conservative era (and is Murphy ever going to really write again?). It's hard to think, off the top of my head, of any current extreme-right HB guys."

"As many" may have been statistically dubious. Or it may even be that, over time, there have been far more conservative PI writers than liberal/left ones. I didn't do a case-by-case analysis of everyone who ever wrote a PI story. My point was that it wasn't hard to think of conservative PI writers. Spillane, Prather, and Murphy were the ones who came to mind right off the top of my head.

I could also have added Cleve Adams (though, no doubt, you'd dismiss him as being from "a more conservative era").

Sticking strictly to PI and strictly to contemporary writers, than a few who, at least to me, seem to bat right-handed (and I haven't really discussed politics with any of them) are Jerry Kenneally, C.J. Henderson, Wayne Dundee, Gary Lovisi, and W. Glenn Duncan.

Does two short stories qualify me? If so, I'm a current conservative PI guy, and compared to you, I probably qualify as "extreme-right."

My point, though, wasn't really that there was an equal amount of right-wingers and left-wingers. It was that there are enough hard-boiled (even limiting it to PI) writers who have a conservative bent, that it really can't be said that the hard-boiled (or hard-boiled PI) story is inherently left-wings, or inherently a vehicle for leftist commentary.

Some are left. Some are right. Some are apolitical.

"And how political was their work, exactly? Shell Scott seemed more concerned with boinking bimbos and Trace/Digger with illegal wiretapping, ice-cold vodka and padding expense accounts than expounding on any political viewpoint."

Read Prather's PATTERN FOR PANIC, THE TROJAN HEARSE, or his short story "Code 197," and you'll get a sense of where he's coming from politically. Or at least where Shell is coming from (because, really, Al Guthrie has a point; we can't necessarily assume that a character's opinions are also those of his creator).

Murphy's rants against political correctness, big government, affirmative action, etc, are sprinkled all through the Trace/Digger books, and in what is arguably his best PI novel, the stand-alone THE CEILING OF HELL, we get a very conservative hero
(notwithstanding that the villain is a right-wing whacko).

"Granted, Spillane himself was a conservative, a God-fearing (but beer-plugging) Jehovah's Witness. But a lot of the politics in his books is more of the hyper-ventilated rant variety, fed more out of rage than any rational thought. It played well at the time
-- and still does when you're ankle-deep in one of his books and caught up in his rage -- but it was hardly a sustained political platform. Even for the 'good old days' of the fifties."

The point here isn't how well-thought out Spillane's political perspective was or was not. The point is he, and others, wrote, and write, from a conservative perspective. So it's simply wrong to conclude that the genre he, and others who tended the same way politically, is inherently left-wing.

"And hardly one most 'compassionate' conservatives today would adapt. I mean, would Jesus belly shoot a suspect? Compassion and painting the steps red with blood just don't seem all that compatible.. ."

You seem to be assuming that, because I object to the notion that hard-boiled or PI stories have an inherent political bias, that I'm arguing in favor of a particular polticial opinion. I certainly have a political opinion, but I'm not arguing in favor of it here. I'm merely pointing out that there have been, and are, hard-boiled PI writers whose political opinions tended to be conservative.

If someone suggested that the hard-boiled PI story is inherently right-wing (and it seems to me there was a book about the genre that did just that) because of writers like Spillane, Prather, Adams, Dundee, etc, would you conclude that I was waving the flag for liberalism if I pointed out that Dennis Lynds, Sara Paretsky, and Roger L. Simon were anything BUT right-wing?

My point is not that the hard-boiled PI story is conservative, but that it's a framework that conservatives can work within just as easily as liberals. Or those who are apolitical, for that matter.

"Whereas it's not too hard to see where the political sympathies of Lehane or Paretsky or Shannon or Block or Doolittle or Phillips or Crais or Connelly or Parker or Pelecanos or Lippman or Mosley or a slew of more recent writers lay."

I never said there weren't left-wing PI writers. I said that neither hard-boiled crime stories in general, nor the PI story in particular, were inherently leftist, and that there are enough conservative hard-boiled writers generally, and PI writers specifically, to disprove such a notion.


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