RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Capturing Cooperman

From: Susan Evans Shaw (
Date: 10 Jul 2008

  • Next message: Susan Evans Shaw: "RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Capturing Cooperman"

    Perhaps we could call Benny a bit soft-boiled! However not to do him an injustice, as you say he stays the course and in spite of his apparent conservatism (the small "c" variety) shows remarkable courage - "guts" might be the more appropriate noir term.


    That's why I cannot remember the name of the actor who played Cooperman - a sleudian frip you might say. He made Cooperman into a buffoon which I found infuriating. Cooperman may appear timid and a homebody but he also intelligent and shrewd. He knows his community well, a little like Christie's Miss Marple minus the knitting. He deals with some pretty unpleasant characters that inhabit the underbody of Grantham and in the end gets his man or woman as the case may be. That's what could qualify the Cooperman novels as noir. All is not as it seems on the surface. In the spirit of Ross Macdonald, Engel's respectable families have a dark past, coloured by elements of greed, larceny and murder. Cooperman's homely habits like chopped egg sandwiches and Friday night dinner with his parents make an excellent counterpoint to the lives of his clients and their associates.


    That's my take.






    -----Original Message----- From: [] On Behalf Of Sent: July 10, 2008 1:06 PM To: Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Capturing Cooperman


    Would you say, Susan, that Engel's output is hard boiled or noir? Engle created Cooperman as a sort of Canadian alternative to American hard boiled detectives like Spade and Marlowe. Cooperman works a city small enough for everyone to know all the major players, if they are so inclined. He's unmarried, more because he's the type women want to take under-wing than because he's too hard-nosed. He still goes home for mom's cooking once a week.

    On the other hand, while Cooperman frequently flinches at putting himself in danger, he still does so. He resists both parental and would-be paramours' attempts to change him, remaining pretty much the "lone wolf" cliche. He has a workable relationship with local cops, but usually due to the forebearance of a high-school buddy. If there's a moral code, it's more or less the familiar form that doesn't get, or stand up to, too much scrutiny, and hence there's a bit of world-weariness when confronted by the things people do.

    He's an average schmo like the rest of us, but more inclined to stay the course when confronted by situations that might cause the rest of us to turn away, but then that's because it's his job. Most of us stay the course for the sake of a job, when we might otherwise turn away. We rationalize that the money allows us to maintain our independence, just as I think I recall Cooperman doing on occasion. You might call Engel's Cooperman series an unflinching look at the gritty experience of average mediocrity, if you want to get really dark and humourous, about it.

    But that's just my take. I'm curious to hear what you think.


    ----- Original Message ----- From: Susan Evans Shaw To: rara-avis-l@ <> Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:37 AM Subject: RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Capturing Cooperman

    The show was interesting but spoiled by ads - at one point there were three interruptions in less than 10 minutes. Bravo! used to be more commercial-free. Complaints aside, there is extensive footage of Howard Engel at his computer, walking around Toronto and in the Cooperman sites in St. Catharines. They also used clips from the two films based on his books. Interviews included Margaret Cannon, the Globe and Mail mystery reviewer, Peter Robinson, Eric Wright, Engel's daughter Charlotte and several others. There was quite a bit at the beginning about his first marriage to writer Marion Engel. Much emphasis was placed on the tragedies in his life - his second wife died of brain cancer. Then there was the stroke and his remarkable recovery. All in all, I'd say the film is worth watching for.



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