Okay, so I've been writing for forty years. That's necessarily saying I've been published for forty years. Three times so far. Two heroic sci/fantasy novels (1981, 2008) and one police-procedural (2008). And I have to say I have had rotten luck (and I think 'rotten' is just the adjective needed to describe my luck) with trying to find a lit agent who actually likes my writing.

But I keep trying. I keep plugging away. Because I have a theory. I think what this country needs . . . is someone who takes up the mantel Raymond Chandler had to discard on his deathbed. I think this country needs to return to some good, old-fashioned cliches in that dee ocean basin we call American Detective Fiction.

We need some tough-guys back in detective literature. No-holds-barred, wise cracking, tough as boiler plate, steely eyed cops and detectives who are caustic in their honesty and suspicious of anyone in power.

For me in that's what defined a good detective. Or cop. And Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe stands out as a the ultimate example.

Frankly I'm saddened, and irritated, that our genre has somehow stumbled away from this style of writing. Hell, read Chandler's Fairwell, My Lovely, and it sounds and reads so . . . . good! Even today, some sixty odd years after it first came out. And in my opinion, no one today comes close in mimicking that talent. No one.

But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

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Comment by I. J. Parker on February 10, 2009 at 4:36am
Well, that's very kind. But I'm afraid I also have some pretty flat villains, though I try occasionally to find some human reason for their actions. I think our problem has to do with the very unsettling effect of showing someone murdered by someone else who was put into a hopeless situation by parents or society or some other abuser. Punishing (catching) such a man is going to make our protagonist look like a heartless monster.
Comment by Tom Cooke on February 10, 2009 at 2:16am
I.J. I agree with you and I'm one of the worst offenders. My protags are pretty well filled out and defined since most of my work is first person narration but my villains are usually more of a plot device than a character. I'm so glad you're around to tweak our conscience's once in a while.
Comment by I. J. Parker on February 10, 2009 at 12:35am
Hard-boiled and noir are both well. So the older types of detective fiction still flourish. That is no reason why other forms should not also evolve. Unflawed characters are flat, as far as I'm concerned. In the crime genre we're already forced to deal with villains who don't have much except villainy in their make-up. Let's have a more complex protagonist at least.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 9, 2009 at 10:50pm
Ann

Barry Eisler, eh? I'll look him up!
Comment by Ann Littlewood on February 9, 2009 at 3:28pm
Just a girly girl here, but I do like Barry Eisler's John Rain character--tough and fun. Give him a try if you haven't.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 9, 2009 at 1:15pm
Jon,

I'm trying in the book I have out. You write one, and I'll buy it, buddy!
Comment by Jon Loomis on February 9, 2009 at 1:13pm
Hey,B.R.,

I think that's true, and guys like Robert Parker and John D MacDonald sold a bunch of books operating on that premise. If they could do it, there's no reason it couldn't be done again. It's just a matter of finding the right character: he'd have to be engaging and smart and funny, along with that toughness.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 9, 2009 at 1:09pm
Jon

The point is, I think there is a huge audience out there of post WWII males who are looking for a modernized -and flawed-Phillip Marlowe. Not a copy of a clone, but a tough guy accustomed to the 21st century.
Comment by Jon Loomis on February 9, 2009 at 1:04pm
Well, the perceived need for flawed heroes goes all the way back to Greek mythology and/or Superman, whichever came first. A hero who's invulnerable would be pretty uninteresting, after all. And I think the way the culture perceives men has really changed over the last generation or two--not for the better, either. The tough competence of the WWII vet has been replaced by something a lot less sure of itself and, in some ways, a lot less engaging--at least for me. But that's the package we're given: how do you give a character born in the post-war period the same steely gaze and tough talk as Marlowe? It'd be ludicrous, right?
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 9, 2009 at 12:47pm
Dana. I agree.

We can create a 21st Century tough-guy who is truly unique and not so emotionally traumatized as Chandler's creation was.

The hope is more writers will try to create their visions. I know I'm trying

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