RARA-AVIS: Re: Hacks all over the world

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 30 Oct 2009

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    Juri wrote:

    > I think almost every country of the world has produced its own
    > literature
    > that's set in the US, despite there are bound to be lots of
    > mistakes. You
    > should be proud of that! German and Finland had Jerry Cotton, the
    > FBI agent,
    > for example, and Dale Bogard's (I think his real name was Paul
    > Enefer) novel
    > is just one example, and perhaps not even the worst amidst all the
    > other
    > stuff British hacks wrote throughout the 20st century.
    > Maybe Americans should stop writing about other countries? How many
    > writers
    > who wrote books about Africa have been there? Maybe we should stop
    > writing
    > science fiction - you know, not that many has been in space. And
    > what about
    > fantasy?

    Right on. There are good books and bad books, and an writer's actual, first-hand familiarity with the setting should be the least of the reader's concerns.

    Getting it right matters, of course, but you don't need to live in Wyoming to write about cowboys. Research and empathy and imagination
    -- and the ability to make it all real -- matter more than a mailing address.

    And remember, ineptitude and poor research skills -- not to mention plain old bad writing -- know no borders.

    First hand experience is always nice but it's the writing between the covers that really matters -- not the too-often-questionable author bio on the back.

    Liked the hard-nosed "writer" on some other lists who boasted ceaselessly about her "street creds" from working with cops on their investigations.

    Street creds? Plural?

    I have a feeling the cops were Starsky and Hutch. In reruns.

    Anyway, think of the laughs we'd all lose, if we were limited to writing only exactly what we know. After all, for well over a century American depictions of Canada, from Nelson Eddy and Dudley Doright cartoons to the latest sit-com potshots and Fox-News "Special Report on Health Care" are a great and infinite source of amusement for most Canadians.

    I remember a recent novel where a writer referred to Toronto as a large city "by Canadian standards."

    Dale Bogard, James Hadley Chase (who was sued for plagiarism by Chandler) and many other non-American writers made good livings writing about an imagined U.S. of constant, eternal sin and crime and 24/7 blondes. But they weren't any further off the mark than some American authors of the same time.

    The only thing that really matters is if the writing's good enough to overcome the occasional glitch. It's when the writing's weak that we really start to notice the mistakes. and once that happens, the mistakes really pile up.

    Hell, Chandler himself was pretty fast and loose about Los Angeles, merrily making up names and shifting geography when it suited him.

    Kevin Burton Smith Thrilling Detective Web Site Any week now...

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