Re: RARA-AVIS: Real Cool Killers

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 14 Jul 2007

Himes was one of a kind. I forget how good he is sometimes, then I dip back into one of his books and he stuns me again with what he was doing. I don't see him being at all like Spillane, though. Certainly he was encouraged to write like Hammett, who's at the other end of the hardboiled spectrum.

To be specific: Marcel Duhamel (La Serie Noire founder) wanted Himes to write detective novels for him. Himes said he didn't know anything about detective stories, he was a serious writer. This was Duhamel's response:
"Get an idea. Start with action, somebody does something -- a man reaches out a hand and opens a door, light shines in his eyes, a body lies on the floor, he turns, looks up and down the hall ... Always action in detail. Make pictures. Like motion pictures. Always the scenes are visible. No stream of consciousness at all. We don't give a damn who's thinking what -- only what they're doing. Always doing something. From one scene to another. Don't worry about it making sense. That's for the end."

When Himes handed in his first 60 pages he was told that there was still too much of the author in it. But he got Duhamel's seal of approval second time of asking. And the rest is history, as they say.

Here's a retrospective quote from Himes about the Harlem novels.
"I was writing some strange shit. Some time before, I didn't know when, my mind had rejected all reality as I had known it and I had begun to see the world as a cesspool of buffoonery. Even the violence was funny. A man gets his throat cut. He shakes his head to say you missed me and it falls off. Damn reality, I thought. All of reality was absurd, contradictory, violent and hurting."

(info culled from the Sallis biography, btw).


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Michael Robison
  Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2007 8:06 PM
  Subject: RARA-AVIS: Real Cool Killers

  Just finished this today. A fairly decent novel.
  Totally outrageous and way hardboiled in a Mickey
  Spillane and Mike Hammer way. I can see why Haut had
  such a hard time dealing with Himes. Trying to twist
  the whole genre into a commentary on state crime is
  the equivalent of hammering a square peg into a round
  hole. My reading of hardboiled and noir sees personal
  accountability as a common theme.


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