RARA-AVIS: Re: Slapstick-Silly Noir

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 22 Jun 2009

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    Mark wrote (before the Great Coffee/Laptop Collision of 2009) :

    > Kevin,
    > You started this thread by sneering at people who blurb and/or
    > review without having actually finished books, but you've given no
    > indication at all that you have read more than one book in the
    > movement you seem intent on creating only to dismiss.

    I'm not creating anything. And I'm not convinced it's a movement movement. It might just be a short-lived trend or a cultural blip. Or just a reflection of a general coarsening of our culture, but it seemed to me, when I first brought up this topic a few years ago, that there was an increase in this sort of stuff, based on submissions we've received for Thrilling Detective, books I've received to review and occasionally the books coming into the bookstore where I work. At least some of the people on this list, both then and now, seem to agree with me.

    Obviously, I'm not a big fan of a lot of it, which is is why I haven't gone out of my way to seek it out. But still it finds me. New Pulp Press asked me to review THE DISASSEMBLED MAN and I figured, "Why not?"

    After all, it's not like I've never reviewed or written about small press books or books by new authors or even self-published books. I just don't make excuses for them.

    They make enough for themselves.

    > Now I do believe there is something of a rising trend here, based on
    > actually having read a number of books by Al, Duane, Higson,
    > Charlies Huston and Williams, Bruen, etc. (though not Flexer). Have
    > you read any of these or any other books you believe fall in the
    > movement for which you are writing an anti-manifesto? If so, do you
    > have the same problems with them or are your problems with Flexer
    > alone?

    I have enjoyed some of those books by some of those authors and disliked others. But if YOU think there's more of this stuff, and I think there's more of this stuff, and we both agree on a number of the same perpetrators (I might add Hiaasen on the lighter end of the scale and toss Jason Starr's collaborations with Ken somewhere towards the other end -- I haven't read Higson yet).

    The ones where the humour or parody is obvious from the writing itself, and the outrageousness flows naturally I've enjoyed quite a bit; the ones where the humour escaped me and the outrageousness seems self-conscious and forced usually didn't work as well for me. Even in this bloody mess of a trend, writing matters.

    But the use of humour to justify/explain/defend some of this stuff interests me -- some authors rush to embrace the tag; some deny it and some would be horrified if their dark, disturbing IMPORTANT books were tagged as humour, and others can't remember if a book was supposed to be funny or not.

    Which I sympathize with. Sometimes I can't tell either.

    Usually the more bodily fluids splashing around and dismemberment and torture tossed into the mix the less likely I am to assume it's intended to be fun. But others really get their jollies from that stuff.

    Maybe it is just me, as some have suggested. Maybe I'm too delicate a flower. Or maybe I'm just more hardened than I thought. Perhaps some of their deliberate gratuitousness just isn't quite over-the-top enough to register on my deadened senses as humour.

    Since it's a matter of public record, though, I did enjoy Duane's THE BLONDE very much. I named it one of my "books of the year" for January Magazine when it came out (2007?). But offering a complete checklist of which books I didn't like, which I gave up on over the last few years and why just isn't worth the hassle.

    Sorry, Mark.

    Respectfully submitted, Kevin

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