RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 06 Jan 2009

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    Mark wrote:

    > But couldn't that be said of any genre? When you set the best
    > practitioners up as the standard, most others are sure to disappoint.
    > For example, there are far more average and below PI writers than
    > there
    > are Chandlers.
    > As for the "urban," the same was said about the blaxplotation films,
    > plus Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, for that matter.

    True, but I think it's the combination of ineptitude with the boneheaded stereotyping that got to me. White cops are racist? Black people sell drugs? Women love sucking black dick? Who knew?

    The blaxplotation films et al, or at least the best of them, offered unique voices and at least a sense of an "insiders" look at a subculture, warts and all. NIKKI TURNER PRESENTS NUMBERS by Dana Dane is about as gritty and tasty as a piece of Wonderbread. Then again, I guess I shouldn't have been expecting much from either Nikki Turner, a highly successful writer of "urban" romances whose imprint has put out this book, or first-time novelist Dana Dean, a former hip hop star best known for rapping in a dubious British accent.

    And talk about an ego. In the acknowledgements, Dane dedicates the book to... himself. God comes second.

    If there were a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 for books, this one would be a prime candidate.

    But it is true that when you really dislike a book, you tend to hate all sorts of things in it that you might let slide in a better book. Maybe if this book had been smarter or better written, I wouldn't have minded the disappointing clichés. Lord knows, most of Chandler's plots could be picked to death, but who cares when Marlowe starts to crack wise?

    And Mario wrote:

    > Kevin, aren't there one-dimensional and predictable people? I even
    > recall a sociological study called _One Dimensional Man_... In a
    > sense, our antihero Parker is one-dimensional. If he has other
    > dimensions, they are not revealed.

    Parker may be one-dimensional, but Westlake's writing rarely was. And Parker's single dimension was more developed and nuanced than all the characters in NUMBERS put together.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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