RARA-AVIS: Re:Carroll John Daly

From: brooks hefner ( brookshefner@yahoo.com)
Date: 24 Jan 2007

Newbie/lurker jumping into the fray here...

Full disclosure: I'm a grad student working on Daly
(and others) right now, so I've got some investment in Daly's reputation.

While I'm not sure I'd say that Daly is a good writer, I do think he's undervalued. From what I've read, his stories are much better than his novels - he seems to tone down the slang in the novels (perhaps this was in their revision for hardcover) and he has trouble creating a convincing and compelling novel-length narrative. The Hidden Hand is a great case in point - if you can't figure out who the Hidden Hand is in the first 10 pages, you should probably check you pulse. Hence, the climactic discovery of the Hidden Hand's identity is, well, ho-hum.

That said, his early stories are really fascinating in both their style and subject. "The False Burton Combs" and "Knights of the Open Palm" are two that are definitely worth reading ("FBC" was reprinted in Ruhm's The Hard-Boiled Detective and "KOTOP" in Kittredge and Krauzer's The Great American Detective).

And I'd agree with Grandmaster Flash as quoted in another post. Gertrude Stein, devotee of detective fiction and huge fan of Dashiell Hammett, said something similar about creating new art: "when you make a thing, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly, but those that do it after you they don't have to worry about making it and they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when the others make it." This is not to say that Daly is on par with Stein (or Picasso, who she claims to be quoting), but to expect Daly to have the aesthetic sense of Hammett or the polish of Chandler is unfair.


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