RARA-AVIS: short fiction

From: John Williams ( johnwilliams@ntlworld.com)
Date: 13 Oct 2007

Patrick King wrote:
> Personally, I agree with you completely. I don't think
> Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Thompson, Gardner, Charteris,
> Spillaine, Fleming or any of the golden agers would
> have improved any of their work by pushing it into a
> 300 page format. But try to tell that to a current day
> agent or publisher. They won't even read a 150 page
> book without telling you to make it twice as long. I
> think it hurts the level of writing in modern
> detective and noir fiction.

I completely agree, And for what it's worth at Serpent's Tail we like a short book. For instance the first two Ken Bruen novels we published were very short indeed - maybe 30,000 words at a stretch. Of course they didn't sell particularly well - and that may be cause readers saw them as over-priced - expecting more pages for their money. I think what happens too is that readers figure that short crime novels will be
'literary' and avoid them like the plague. Still if the ridiculously over-rated Ian McEwan wins the Booker Prize with his novella On Chesil Beach maybe the short form will come back into fashion in 'literature' at least. Which may in turn encourage the drift from 'crime' to
'literature' of some of the major talents working in the genre. Daniel Woodrell's wonderful Winter's Bone, for instance, is pretty short, likewise William Gay's Twilight. Anyone read that?

Also anyone read Willy Vlautin's fine debut novel The Motel Life? It's more Bukowski/Fante than straight ahead noir, though Vlautin's lyrics with his band Richmond Fontaine are often extremely noir.


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