RARA-AVIS: Joe Gores as Gangster Writer

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 01 Feb 2008

Since this is the last day of Joe Gores month, I felt at least one more post (and perhaps a thread, if this post generates one) was called for.

I've observed elsewhere that hard-boiled/noir crime stories tends to be about professionals. On both sides of the fence. Good guys tend to be cops, private eyes, spies, etc.

Bad guys tend to be organized crime figures, armed robbers, drug dealers, enemy agents, etc.

I'm talking about trends here, of course, not hard and fast rules, but it strikes me that the cozy tends to be as much about amateur criminals as it is about amateur sleuths. In the hard-boiled/noir world, it takes a professional to survive.

Joe Gores seems to exemplify this trend better than most. Although his first novel, A TIME OF PREDATORS, has amateurs on both sides of the fence, by and large he deals with pros, professional criminals as much as professional crime-solvers.

The main character in his Edgar-winning short story,
"Goodbye,Pops," is a latter-day Dillinger type, a prison escapee heading ultimately to a shoot-out with the cops hot on his trail.

The initial DKA trilogy pits Kearney and his staff against mobsters modeled on Jimmy "The Weasel" Frattiano and his confederates.

MENACED ASSASSIN pits an SFPD Organized Crime specialist against a Syndicate hit man.

Even the gypsies of the later DKA novels, for all their tribal traditions and rituals, are essentially nothing but professional thieves.

The prevalence of pros in Gores's work will, in the coming month, provide something of a counterpoint to Cornell Woolrich, whose work is much more likely to feature amateurs in both the heroic and villainous roles.


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