RARA-AVIS: Re: Newsweek names "Fifty Books of Our Times"

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 04 Jul 2009

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    James wrote:

    > Well, I said I liked the book. As a matter of fact, I like most of
    > P.D. James's books, especially A Taste For Death.
    > But I think she is obviously riffing off of the classic cozies of
    > the Twenties and Thirties, and doing so in a very literate and
    > sometimes moving way. The only book I am familiar with that
    > approached HB was Innocent Blood which I also thought was one of her
    > least successful efforts.

    Well, that sorta proves my point. Although on the surface James and Hammett may be worlds apart, there's obviously something there that would allow you to be a fan of both writers. Good writing?

    And while James does indeed work in a more traditional, Golden Age vein, I'm pretty sure some of the viewpoints, characters and crimes in her work would give some of those twenties and thirties cozy writers and readers the vapours. Because that era's hard-boiled school influenced far more than just its most direct descendants (Chandler, et al). It influenced the entire mystery genre, including of course AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN, which focusses on a young female private eye who, although about as far from Sam Spade as imaginable, still has to deal with the legacy and expectations of her famous predecessor and the decidedly masculine hard-boiled school.

    Hell, given Hammett's eclectic reading taste, he might have well recommended something even further afield than P.D. James.

    Double hell, I'll bet a lot of us read stuff far beyond the narrow confines of the hard-boiled and noir sub-genres. In fact, I'll bet some of us read some seriously strange shit, fiction and non-fiction, that would give the rest of us the vapours.


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