RARA-AVIS: Re: westner vs noir, cowboy vs private eye

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 07 Jul 2009

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    > I´m reading all of James Crumley to write a piece - presentation,
    > essay,
    > whatever - om him for a Swedish book about noir and hard boiled crime
    > authors. The american private eye is/was always a relative to the
    > american
    > cowboy but it seems to me that Crumley´s fiction is/was the closest to
    > western/cowboy novels that american noir crime novels will ever get.
    > So I´m thinking about the connection between the two - or the one -
    > genre(s), between american crime novels and the myth of the american
    > western
    > and cowboy myth. Has there been anything written about this? Am I
    > right? You
    > have any thoughts that can send me in the right direction when I start
    > writing? Any suggestion of other american crime writers who come
    > close to
    > western cowboy novels - or writers of cowboy fiction who come close
    > to crime
    > novels? Or anything!

    Off the top of my head, other writers equally at home wearing fedoras and Stetsons include Ed Gorman, Robert Randisi, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Loren Estleman and Brian Garfield.

    Oh, and that Reasoner guy and that Doherty guy .

    For example, Randisi's on book #3456732 of the western series he writes as J.D. Roberts, and last year's two big soap operas, 3:10 TO YUMA (so-so) and APPALOOSA (pretty good), were based on works by Leonard and Parker, respectively.

    Certainly it's not a new idea -- more than one wag has suggested that some of the detective work in Conan Doyle's work owes quite a bit to Natty Bumpo's "tracking" in Cooper's LAST OF THE MOHICANS, and whether it was conscious or not, Hammett himself wrote a couple of westerny short stories.

    If you're interested in what others have to say on the cowpoke/shamus connection, besides the ones mentioned, Parker wrote his doctoral thesis on the evolution of the American Hero, beginning with the colonial period (Cooper) and right through the cowboy era, ending up with twentieth century mystery writers such as Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald.

    In fact, it would be pretty easy to change LAST OF THE MOHICANS into a P.I. novel. After all, it's really just another wandering daughter job and the hero is just a another guy with a gun and a moral code.

    Into this wild land a man must walk, neither tarnished nor afraid...

    Kevin Burton Smith Editor/Founder The Thrilling Detective Web Site
    "Wasting your time on the web since 1998."

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