Re: RARA-AVIS: Sadism

From: James Michael Rogers (
Date: 04 Mar 2010

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    Yeah, that is pretty much what I was getting at. If these guys seemed just brutal for the sake of being brutal they would be nothing more than sadistic bullies themselves and indistinguishable from the adversaries they face off with. I think that's part of the reason the Mickey Spillane books lacked cachet, along with the kind of primitive writing.

    But, at the same time, the sadism is part of the appeal. Who doesn't like Mike Hammer or Willie Garvin pushing someone's face in? Part of that is just adolescent male power fantasy, sure, but at times when I'm reading those books I feel that an uglier side of my personality is being appealed to. It has a terrific impact and I can't deny that....Who of us doesn't enjoy some of that stuff? Hell, Ellroy's American Tabloid books are non-stop sadism, though his protagonists couldm't be described as heroes by any stretch of the term. An even better example might be Westlake's Parker books, which I love. But some of the subversive appeal of these things is making the reader complicit in the horrible shit the protagonist is doing.

    By the way, I don't hate the Vachss books anymore than I hate the Robert Parker Spencer ones. I think both guys are entertaining writers who could have been better had they tried harder.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Michael Jeter
      Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2010 06:01
      Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Sadism

      I had two thoughts, both probably oversimplified:
      The first:

      ¨Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean... He
      must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor.¨

      Perhaps, in general, our heroes see torture as a mean, petty,
      dishonorable thing used by lesser beings.

      And while I understand that many of you do not care for the modern
      practice of giving a psychological background/backstory to characters,
      and even fewer of you care for Burke, I think of that character who
      Vachss draws as an abused child who tries to break the pattern.-
      having experienced abuse/torture, the character avoids doing so

      My .02 cents.

      On 3/4/10, James Michael Rogers <> wrote:

    > For the hard-boiled PIs, I cannot really think of many times that they have
    > dished out torture or other really rough stuff,

      Michael Damian Jeter
      New Orleans, LA
      Literacy, Music, and Democracy


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