RARA-AVIS: converging plotlines

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 28 Jan 2008

I recently read a Rankin/Rebus book with converging plotlines. I'm not giving the title so as not to give anything away, but this would actually describe several in the series. Block does this a lot in the Scudder series, too. If you've read many investigatory crime novels in the past decade or two, I'm sure you've run across this convention where the book starts with two seemingly separate investigations that converge by the end. Although one of the crimes is often an old, cold case, I'm not talking about a Ross Macdonald plot where a current case leads back to an older one, or where the investigator seems to be sidetracked from his partner's death by the search for a dingus. Both of those plots are linear in their development, with one plot leading to the other. Instead, I'm talking about books that try to delay the reader's connecting the cases as long as possible. Of course, by now it's become such a convention that it'd probably be a bigger surprise if the plots didn't converge, remained discrete at the end.

Anyway, I started wondering when this convention started. I can't think of a single classic hardboiled/noir novel with this gimmick. There are some hints of it in Chandler, as he sewed his short stories together into novels, and in the Roger Wade and Terry Lennox subplots of Long Goodbye, but this still isn't quite what we see so often now. Can someone better read in the classics think of examples? If not, when and where this plot gimmick start? And how quickly did it spread? Is it somehow tied to the longer books of today? Chicken/Egg: Does it require more pages to give the two plotlines each their due? Is it a way of filling out those more pages that now seem to be the norm, offering the reader two plots for the price of one?


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