Re: RARA-AVIS: Boys in the Backroom

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 04 Nov 2007

--- Michael Robison <> wrote:

> So what did you think of Edmund's Boys in the Back
> Room? He's mostly an asshole towards the hardboiled
> genre and some of his comments show a lack of
> understanding, but every so often he hones in with
> good perception. It's been a while since I read it,
> but I think he was good on Steinbeck but poor on
> Cain.

Wilson likes Cain more than I do. I love Cain's stories but I'm underwhelmed by his writing and view. Where I do agree with Wilson (in this narrow area) is his take on Horace Mccoy. "They Shoot Horses . . ." is dreadfully written and structured and understanding why the characters are doing what they're doing relies more on what the reader brings than what is actually there. I read the book within the last couple of months and it was a chore to get through.

As for Hemingway, Steinbeck and O'Hara, I haven't been through his essays on them. What I focused on was "Why Do People Read Detective Stories" written in 1944 that people such as Laura Lippman and others are still seething about. Wilson -- and The New Yorker -- are symbols of those wretched "literature" readers who don't get it (according to the mystery readers) so I wanted to read it and see what all the fuss is about. Wilson got so much hate mail that he wrote a follow-up essay. My feeling is that the mystery novel is heading off into the sunset with the western (and, yes, I've read McCarthy and there's always a market for a new take on any genre) and that the mystery novel is being diluted by cross-genre (vampires, woo-woo and the like) and self-publishing that is glutting the market with sloppy junk (and, yes, some good books have been self-published but on the whole it's splintering an already splinter market which is why some conferences are limiting the participation of those writers).

Anyway, that's the direction I'm off on although my recent fulltime employment has seriously cut into my research time and some things just never do end up where I thought they would.


Essays and Ramblings

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