Re: RARA-AVIS: Gores's Spade and Archer

From: jacquesdebierue (
Date: 19 Jun 2010

  • Next message: Patrick Kennedy: "Re: RARA-AVIS: The Chandler / Hammett Ellroy-inspired debate"

    --- In, Patrick Kennedy <pbjk2004@...> wrote:
    > Was anyone else here rendered less than gruntled by Ellroy's review of "Spade and Archer" during which he gratuitously seizes, or creates, an opportunity to take a sideswipe at Chandler?  Chandler, apparently, is a 'florid gasbag' who is 'easy to imitate'.  Oh really?  Then how come Robert B Parker failed so badly at it, and even Chandler himself couldn't quite manage it towards the very end of his career?
    > There seems to be quite a bit of resentment around amongst certain crime writers towards Chandler: a begrudging of his place in crime writing history and the critical literary acclaim which came his way, and still does, while it frequently eludes - most unjustifiably, to my mind - most practitioners of the genre.
    > I think what Chandler possessed more than any other quality in the best of his writing was poetry, heart and personality.  Maybe Ellroy doesn't think you need these qualities much if you're a crime writer, but I'm damned glad Chandler had them, and in such gifted and entertaining abundance.

    Also, the best Chandler, at least in my opinion, is to be found in the couple dozen short stories that he published. In those, Marlowe is not such a wisecracker, the action moves very rapidly (often suddenly), and the writing owes a lot to Hammett. If you have read one of those mammoth anthologies of pulp stories you know that when you come to a Chandler story it is usuallly head and shoulders above everything that precedes it and follows it - unless there are also Hammett stories, that is!

    The reason why imitating Hammett is not aproblem is that, de facto, Hammett's writing style became simply the model of good writing for 20th century American writers. As such, it is now unremarkable. You can tell that somebody writes very well but you don't necessarily go and say "Oh, I hear Hammett".

    I was thinking about this while reading or rereading several novels during the past month, fine works that have little in common thematically... but all feature the extremely clear and focused writing that was so characteristic of Hammett... books like Connelly's _The Scarecrow_ , Bill Crider's _Booked for a Hanging_, Jack O'Connell's _The Resurrectionist_, as well as the Gores novel we're discussing.



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