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

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 06 Sep 2006

On Sep 5, 2006, at 11:34 AM, david david wrote:

> i think i once read where Cain said he wrote Postman
> Always Rings Twice before he'd read Hemingway. Does
> anyone know if that's right?

Cain does, but he ain't talkin'...

and Jim wrote:

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

Well, I wouldn't dismiss him but yeah, he certainly did come from a generally more conservative era. Like it or not (and some conservatives definitely don't), the United States is generally a far more liberal and tolerant society -- even with conservatives currently running the game -- than it used to be back in the "good old days" when Prather and Spillane (or Adams) were selling books.

> 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."

Personally I think you're a pussycat. And generally far too smart to be extreme-anything.

> My point, though, wasn't really that there was an
> equal amount of right-wingers and left-wingers.

Well, you did say "The thing is, there are JUST AS MANY conservative to extreme right-wing (hard-boiled) writers..."

Most people would consider "just as many" to mean "equal."

Just as the same people would understand that if I said that there are currently more apples than oranges, it wouldn't necessarily follow that I meant that oranges don't exist.

> ...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.

Which wasn't anything close to what I said. Or what I believe. One of the beauties of the P.I. genre (or any good fiction) is its ability to bring complicated social and political issues down to the human level and examine them from many angles.

Which is why the work of essentially humourless ranters like Paretsky or Spillane, with their trimmed-to-fit stereotypes, grates on me more than the work of more open and questioning writers like Mosley, Shannon, Lippman, Pelecanos, et al.

Sure, they and their work may ultimately land on the left side of the line, but not before humanizing an issue, and hopefully giving all sides a fair shake. It's more the way they tell their stories (bigger on hard questions than easy answers) that makes them a joy for me to read.

> (Warren) 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).

Well, the excesses of political correctness (a self-mocking term originally coined by liberals themselves), big government and affirmative action have all been fair game (and deservedly so) for a lot of writers on both sides of the coin. I haven't read CEILING OF HELL, but Trace/Digger, the alcoholic and frequently deadbeat dad who can't even remember his kids' names, hardly seems a poster boy for conservative values, sleeping around when he can, fiddling the books and living (in sin) with a woman who works for a living (and isn't white).

Nah, at most, I see Trace/Digger as an apolitical, hypocritical equal- opportunity curmudgeon who delights in skewering everyone, more Groucho Marx than Rush Limbaugh, the kind of guy who lights up a smoke under a "No Smoking" sign, all the while decrying the disrespect for law and order and the lack of civility and manners in modern society. I can't even imagine him even registering to vote.

> ...it's simply wrong to conclude that
> the genre he (Spillane), and others who tended the same way
> politically, is inherently left-wing.

Again, I never said that. Ever. Because it is wrong.

> 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.

Actually, you're the one doing most of the assuming. You're a conservative -- so what? My point was simply that that it seemed to me that the majority of P.I. novels THESE DAYS that bother to lean at all politically tend to lean to the left.

And incidentally, mostly seem to outsell your list of guys, some of whom haven't written a P.I. novel for ages. (I'd love to be corrected on that -- I loved Kenneally and Duncan's stuff, just as I miss Jerome Doolittle's series.

Obviously, that doesn't mean there aren't P.I. writers that swing to the right -- just that I don't feel they in the majority right now, or that the pendulum might not swing back the other way.

> 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.

So who's arguing with you about that? Certainly not me.

> 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?

No, of course not. But you keep arguing against a point I never made.

> 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.

Now you've got it. Very good.

> 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.

Exactly. Looks like you're the one getting smarter.

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com

RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 06 Sep 2006 EDT