RARA-AVIS: Re: Fast Lane

From: Dave Zeltserman ( dz@hardluckstories.com)
Date: 21 Sep 2007


It's extremely flattering to be compared in any way to Goodis, Ellroy and especially Jim Thompson. About Fast Lane in its use of dark humor being an improvement on Thompson, no. There's no way to improve on Hell of a Woman, Savage Night, Swell-Looking Babe, The Getaway, etc.

Like Thompson, Hammett was also very good in his use of dark gallows humor. I don't think there's a better punchline anywhere in crime fiction than the ending of "Gutting of Couffignal". Another writer of that era who was really brilliant at it was Jonathan Latimer. His Bill Crane books mixed a kind of screwball comedy sensibilities with the hardboiled genre. His Solomon Vineyards, which was his Red Harvest (with a touch of Maltese Falcon), excelled in it--from the outrageous forward, to the the alias his PI took (Karl Craven), to one of my favorite scenes in hardboiled PI literature where Craven ends up pulling a mobster's head through jail bars and using it as a punching bag, the book is dripping in gallows humor.

--Dave Zeltserman

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Michael Robison
<miker_zspider@...> wrote:
> Reading this week has been a tag team affair between
> Zeltserman's Fast Lane and Vollman's Butterfly
> Stories. By shear force of the story alone, it was an
> unfair match. Fast Lane won.
> Like Goodis, Zeltserman can bring a minor character to
> life in a few precise sentences. Like James Ellroy,
> he can smoothly crank up the tension as the story
> progresses. You can feel them sweat. Probably the
> most striking parallel is with the works of Jim
> Thompson. Like Thompson, Zeltserman excels at
> invoking an almost hypnotic fascination with a
> character's hand basket ride into his own private
> hell.
> One thing worth mentioning is the juxtaposition of
> humor and horror. Without some sort of relief, a noir
> work risks losing the reader by drowning in its own
> morbid ooze. Woolrich's I Married a Dead Man is a
> good example. Dark humor is the writer's preferred
> choice of relief. Willeford understood this. Same
> with Al Guthrie and Vicki Hendricks. But the
> technique is not risk-free. Humor can negate the
> desperation of the noir condition and turn reader
> empathy to apathy. What it takes is a graveyard,
> irony-dripping humor that complements the text rather
> than contradicting it. In this arena, Zeltserman is a
> master. He has not only read Jim Thompson. He has
> improved on him. Thompson's Pop. 1280 is almost
> always in danger of devolving into a farcical joke.
> Fast Lane avoids this with a wicked humor integrated
> perfectly into the increasingly dark world of Johnny
> Lane.
> miker
> Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your
story. Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games.
> http://sims.yahoo.com/

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