Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: John D.

From: Patrick King (
Date: 21 Oct 2009

  • Next message: Patrick King: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: John D."

    Patrick, Re your question below:

    "Has Elmore Leonard ever written a detective story? I can't think of any book of his that would really fit that genre type."

    I'm not sure how YOU define "detective story," so when I give you these obvious examples, your inevitable response will undoubtedly be, "Those aren't really detective stories to my mind."

    Nonetheless, some obvious examples are CITY PRIMEVAL, SPLIT IMAGES, GLITZ, FREAKY DEAKY, PRONTO, RIDING THE RAP, OUT OF SIGHT, and THE HOT KID. All of them are stories about a professional investigator of some kind trying to catch a criminal, and they're not the only ones he's written. Defining a detective story as being one about a detective trying to catch a criminal may be too simplistic for you, but it strike me as precisely correct.


    Well, yes, you're right, Jim, none of those are detective stories to my standards. They're crime/suspense stories. Detective stories are stores like those written by Ed McBain, Earl Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, and Agatha Christi. If there's nothing for the detective or the reader to figure out in the story, it's not a detective story. Conan Doyle wrote detective stories in which a detective enters after a crime is committed and has to figure out, along with the reader, who committed the crime and/or why. To my mind, anyway, any story about law enforcement is not, a priori, "a detective story." Much more specifically than say hardboiled and noir, terms applied in the last 50 years to certain types of literature and film, the detective story has been a detective story since Edgar Allen Poe, or at least since Wilkie Collins. If we can not even agree on this most basic of literary definitions, maybe we should study Korzybski's Science
     & Sanity to learn the laws of general semantics.

    Patrick King


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