Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled and Marxism

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 07 Sep 2006

Fine. It's not my intention to try anybody's patience.

Just a final thought or two, then: it is possible, surely, that some crime novelists -- British or otherwise -- are, indeed, hacks. I've certainly described myself as such on many occasions. It's possible, too, that I don't write literature (wouldn't be the first time I've heard that and I'm sure it won't be the last). I write because I enjoy telling stories and entertaining people (hopefully), not because I have something to say or because there's something I want to discover (other than fundamentals, such as what character X is going to do next, why he's going to do it, and how he feels about it). My real-life worldview is extremely grim, depressing, negative; I did write a novel like that between my second and third books and I completely take the 'blame' for the worldview in that book for the simple reason that it's mine. Unsurprisingly, everybody who read it hated that particular effort with a passion so it'll never be published. As a result, I now try to write books tha
 t have at least a remote chance of selling a few copies, so even if there is some kind of fictional authorial worldview in one of my character-specific narratives (I'm always happy to admit that I could be wrong -- an opinion is neither right or wrong by definition and I'm merely expressing mine), it's a lot different to the real-life authorial worldview.

'Nuff from me.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: John Williams
  Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2006 4:39 PM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled and Marxism

  Allan Guthrie wrote:

  I don't really think of books as having a single worldview unless
  they're written from a single point of view.


  I don't necessarily associate the worldview of a book with the views of
  a first person narrator.


  Exactly right. I'm afraid I haven't got a lot of patience with this
  school of anti-marxist, anti-intellectual literary theory as often
  practised by crime novelists generally, and British ones in particular,
  that basically sums up as 'don't blame me I only work here'.

  Of course, as a writer myself, I create characters who are not me and
  they say things I wouldn't say and do things I wouldn't do, and of
  course some of those things they say and do aren't things I'd planned
  for them to say and do. But taken as a whole I'm quite sure my books
  reflect my world view. I do have some idea of what territory I'm heading
  into, and inevitably that's territory I want to head into, otherwise I'm
  not sure why I would bother do it.

  Or, at least, the only reason I can see to go into territory that
  doesn't speak to your personal obsessions/interests/world view is if
  you're writing purely in the hope of pleasing a market, in which case
  you're a hack (there are of course plenty of very good hacks who cater
  for a market very skilfully - they're just not in the business of
  writing literature). And most of Al's example of writing without a world
  view are examples of hack work. Thus I 'd suggest that You Play The
  Black... is a work of literature that reflects Hallass's world view,
  while Lassie is hackwork that doesn't

  In general I think the process of writing a non-hack novel for a writer
  is one of self discovery. You start with a sense that there's an aspect
  of life you want to know more about, you write a book that gets in
  there, and some time, maybe years later, you can look at that book and
  kind of see that that-there-on-the-page is your world view.

  What grabs me in a writer's work is that same sense that the writer is
  stretching themselves - taking their world view into territory that
  interests them, and seeing what results.

  John, wondering whether his horse isn't a bit high.



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