RARA-AVIS: Re: On Literary Reps...

From: davezeltserman (Dave.Zeltserman@gmail.com)
Date: 18 Feb 2010

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    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Kevin Burton Smith <kvnsmith@...> wrote:

    > Making bold statements about ALL a writer's work is always tricky, anyway.

    Unless they're Hammett (or Harper Lee ;))

    Seriously, Hammett's five crime novels are all masterpieces, especially when you look at how different and groundbreaking each of them are. His Continental Op stories range from good to some of the best short crime fiction written, but those novels are amazing.

    I haven't read all of Rex Stout--there are a couple of early non-Wolfe novels that have so far eluded me, but while not his books are great, none of have disappointed me. I've enjoyed everything I've read from him. I've probably only read half of Westlake's 100 or so books, and so far none have disappointed me either.

    > Especially about someone like Thompson, whose work was, even most fans agree, all over the place, and whose popularity barely existed before Black Lizard resurrected it in the eighties. Back then, before their reissues began to appear, he was considered one of the "most underrated of all crime writers" by Lawrence Block and others.

    In my opinion, Thompson wrote maybe 7-8 absolutely spellbinding books, books that just took my breath away. He also wrote far lesser books, but the thing with his writing, even when it isn't great (or even good), it's always interesting. Even the books Ron mentioned.

    > That's hardly the case these days, although I suspect he'll always be more of a cult favourite than anything. I doubt he'll ever reach the more general level of respect and popularity of someone like Chandler or Hammett or Christie.
    > Then again, look how Philip K. Dick's star has risen since BLADERUNNER. Literary popularity is a funny thing; so often based on things beyond the mere writing. Just labeling something "underrated" is enough to get a certain kind of cooler-than-thou personality to start overrating someone.

    I did read somewhere that when his books were originally being published that millions of copies were being bought--so at one point he had to have been very popular (even if he never made any money with his books)


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