Re: RARA-AVIS: Inner demons

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 03 Nov 2007

--- Michael Robison <> wrote:

> Can you name a couple? This is not a test. I'm
> just
> interested.
It goes like this. Recently, I read a Lawrence Block with his PI in AA and it was a ghost of a character phoned in by a sleepy writer. The plot - the mystery or whatever - was completely forgettable and it felt as if it took longer for me to read than for him to write it. Tried Sue Grafton who I hadn't read in a while and her protagonist is just plain silly and most of the book she drove around with her cadaver sidekicks propped up in the back seat. Another story of generic cliché³ unwound one by one. I've heard people suggest that Grafton is hard-boiled and I'm sorry but that's a pathetic stretch. Since Laura Lippman trashed Edmund Wilson on her blog and I'm working on a piece about Wilson, I figured I'd read this award-winning and highly acclaimed author. I read "In A Strange City" and could not believe just how flat-out bad it was. I've two more of her books and a third on reserve at the library and all I can say is that while Wilson asked, "Who reads mystery books?" I'm forced to ask "why?" Dibdin's Aurelio Zen was fun the first time but after three or four it wore really thin. Basically it's a cartoon and Venice deserves better. (I read one of his stand alones and really liked it.) Ken Bruen is popular on this list and while I haven't read any of his stand alones, his series about Jack Taylor is - as far as I'm concerned
- a cozy dressed up for Halloween. With Bruen I'm kind of torn because he's working in a territory that I like but he just flirts with the border guards. His Irish noir is much like American film noir (for want of a better term) in that it looks dark until that happy ending. While I could get enthusiastic about Hendricks, Abbott and Starr to write essays on their work, I just can't make it work for Bruen because that spark just doesn't come across the arc.

Right this moment, I'm rereading The Maltese Falcon before doing an essay on it as a book to film. One thing that comes to mind about that how that book is different is that in almost all recent mysteries it's about the PI as imaginary friend and not the story that actually says something about anything. That's what bothered me about the Ross Macdonald that I dipped into and haven't finished; it had no sense of place, no real sense of character, it seemed more of a mystery than anything else.


Essays and Ramblings

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