RARA-AVIS: Re: Dewey

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 29 Dec 2008

  • Next message: Bill Crider: "RARA-AVIS: Dewey"

    Exhibit A:

    > In his later career, Dewey seemed to shift a little
    > from his Hammett-inspired lean, objective writing, dipping into
    > sentimentality, as he does here. Still, it's well worth reading. Dewey
    > remains among the most underappreciated of the followers of Hammett.

    Exhibit B:

    > Also, totally out of print. I like Dewey and I don't find him inferior
    > to Ross Macdonald. I don't know that Dewey ever had a champion among
    > reviewers, maybe that's the problem.

    Exhibit C:

    > Bill Pronzini has consistently championed Dewey's work. He put
    > strong reviews of three Dewey novels into 1001 MIDNIGHTS, including
    > an impassioned one of A SAD SONG SINGING in which he calls the book
    > "one of the ten best private eye novels ever written".

    Funny. Dick sees Dewey as a follower of Hammett, and Mario compares him to Macdonald. Dewey himself may have seen himself as a disciple of Chandler, even picking up a title from Chandler's "Simple Art of Murder" essay.

    I think at different times, with different books, they were all right. Dewey seemed to progress from taut terse Hammett-style prose through the Chandler white knight ethos to arrive at a world-weary but compassionate gumshoe trying to save lost children.

    It wasn't a smooth progression, perhaps, and there were fits and starts, but he essentially mirrored the evolution of the genre in his own career, and that evolution may have made him seem inconsistent to some reviewers and readers, making him a little harder to pin down. Me, I sorta like that you're never quite sure which Mac you'll get, but you'll almost always get a good read. His Pete Schoefield books are more consistent, perhaps, but they don't have quite the depth, mostly, of the Mac books.

    Oh, one other thing. Much as I love Pronzini's work, both fiction and non-fiction, I've always had a bit of a problem with 1001 MIDNIGHTS. As wonderful a resource as it is and as invaluable I've found it over the years, there's something a little cloying about the round robin of writer friends high-fiving each other, particularly Muller and Pronzini, who were/are married to each other.

    But that's me nitpicking. If you can find a cheap copy of this one on eBay or ABE, grab it! Just keep a few grains of salt handy when you read certain entries.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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