Yeah, I know, everyone's had their say. I should have had my say in the threads that are already up.

At The Rap Sheet.

On This Site.

(For the record, I like the people who've been saying these things. Hell, KBS gave me my first shot at being published.)

And most of these arguments seem to be centered around two things to me. Respecting the past and the current crop of novels can never be as good as those written before.

Screw it.

To me it sounds a lot like John Lithgow in FOOTLOOSE telling the kids they can't dance. Like how people reacted to rock and roll in the 50s. And then how the rock and roll fans reacted to rap in the 90s.

It also sounds like Bloom saying there will never be another Shakespeare.

Then why try? Why should we writers try to write something new?

People will say I haven't read the "classics." I argue that by saying I've read enough of the classics to know they don't speak to me. They don't implore me to keep reading the classics. Am I missing something that I'll like? Probably. But you know what, that's too bad.

I'm too caught up reading things that I'm enjoying.

The arguments in the articles above argue that current authors should respect the past and build and expand on it. Good, but that will still wreak of the old stuff.

No, I prefer the new writers to try something new. Whether that's overt violence bordering on comedy. Whether it's "torture porn" bordering on horror. Good for these authors to try something new. They're getting away from tradition, breaking free of it.

They're trying rap, they're trying to dance when people are saying they shouldn't.

And maybe, just maybe someone will come along... who is better than Hammet or Chandler or Cain or MacDonald.

But the pontificators are going to have to open their eyes to see it.

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At this point, I'm not sure I do. I got frustrated and completely lost track of my argument, which at this pint means I'm going to have to shut up on this discussion.

(ouch. here it comes)
That's fair. But you don't have to shut up on your argument. Just clarify what your argument is.
My original response to this got cut off halfway down, so I deleted it, and went out and had a life over the July 4th holiday, so I apologize for the tardiness of this response. When I saw below how Dave had continued to argue himself into the Irrelevant Corner with other folks, I considered foregoing a response, BUT since Dave took the time to pointedly take several veiled and not-so-veiled shots at Yours Truly, I figured I owed him an actual, carefully considered response. So here we go.

Dave wrote:

“Well, you're right, I am pontificating.”

No kidding.

“The problem I'm having here is not the categorizing of books. It's the fact that you guys make it seem like new writers shouldn't even be trying.”

First of all, who is/are “you guys”? I’m assuming that I’m included in this vague reference to some shadowy conspiracy, and I find that quite amusing, seeing as I consider myself far more a member of the “new writers” group.

Now, please show me where I said that classic crime/hb/noir fiction is soooo good that new writers “shouldn’t even bother trying”?

Oh, that’s right. You can’t. Never said it, never implied it. If anything my own abitions run exactly counter to that silly, broad-brush statement. In fact, I’ve mentioned (repeatedly) newer authors I liked such as Bruen and Guthrie, and I’ll go even further here: I liked some of what I’ve read of Duane S.’ work, think Gischler’s stuff is quite good, only read one of Neil Smith’s shorts, but liked it as well. Someone somewhere recently wrote that Megan Abbott is the hottest thing going, and based on the two of her books I’ve read so far, I whole-heartedly agree. Lastly, I yield to no one in my enthusiasm for the writing of Sean Doolittle.

Just because I don’t do back-flips over the writing of every newly-published book that comes down the pike, that hardly makes me some old-time curmudgeon griping about how no one can do it right any more, and therefore shouldn’t bother.

Let me repeat for emphasis, Dave: good writing is good writing. Great writing is timeless. Not all “old stuff” wears well, but some of it is marvelous. Not all “new stuff” is made good simply by virtue of being “different.” At the end of the day, a good story well-told is going to hold up, period.

“Why can't new writers be as good or even better than the past?”

Didn’t say it. Don’t know why you’re harping on it.

“Granted I have said I don't like most classics, however I do like a few (Ross MacDonald, Ian Fleming, a few Chandlers)... At the same time I enjoy newer novelists more.”

Good for you. I find Fleming’s stuff nearly unreadable.

“It seems like people are writing off new novels completely...”

WHERE do you see anyone advocating that?

“Is that what I'm doing with the classics? Yes.”

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: you condemn “those guys” (whoever “they” are) that dismiss the collective work of an entire era of crime fiction in one breath, and in the next, admit that you’re doing precisely the same thing, albeit with a different era?

“Does it seem ridiculous to you? Probably.”

Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to you? Maybe your time would be better spent seeking out these Nullifiers of New Fiction™ and making common cause with them, rather than railing at “them,” since you apparently have quite a lot in common with “them,” assuming that “they” actually exist.

Seriously though, why is it OK for you to do what you’re kvetching about in the first place? People like what they like, and there’s no regulating that, nor should there be. But you can’t have it both ways: complaining on the one hand that people dismiss one entire era of crime fiction (which I haven’t seen anyone not named “Dave White” do), then turning around and doing that against which you are currently railing… well…

A kind word for this sort of move would be “inconsistency.” I see that Mr. Dishon has already used the unkind word for it.

”I grew up on comic books and paperback thrillers.”

Believe it or not, I have a great affection for comic books. I read them well into my 20s.

“I moved on to the classics in college. Now I'm more interested in reading things that come out today.”

Great. Terrific. I don’t understand why you’re so defensive about it. We all like what we like. And I odn't like it when people try to tell me that I should like something that I don’t (A character trait that I'm certain that I share with quite a few readers out there). Sounds like we have a similar problem with that. The difference here is that I’m not bellyaching about other people not liking any/all of the works that I enjoy.

”I'm making my argument with as much force and vitriol as those who grasp the classics are.”

Nah. More. Lots more. I hope folks in your family aren’t prone to ulcers.

“It's just I'm not sitting around quoting the bible or using the word canard.”

True. Instead you use other big words like “pontificate” and “vitriol.”

“The annoyance you're feeling when you read my post is intentional.”

I wouldn’t call what I feel when I read your stuff “annoyance.” More like (big word alert) “bemusement.”

“I'm trying to make a point using emotions.”

Well, appeals to emotion might work for shock radio jocks, but your emotionalism doesn’t do much to refute a word I’ve said in our little back-and-forth, Dave.

”And might I add, that while I'm calling people names here, you pretty much spent an entire paragraph making people believe I'm stupid in the PI thread.”

I think you’re giving me waaaaay too much credit, Dave. First off, I can’t make people “believe” anything. “Belief” is a combination of visceral response and personal choice far beyond my poor power to influence. Secondly, I never called you “stupid.” What I did was use your own words against you to discredit most of your more (big word alert) outlandish statements.

Oh well, at least you admit to the name-calling. I fail to see where stuff like that is going to get you anywhere or change anyone’s mind. Maybe that isn’t your intent though. Maybe it’s really all just about being “provocative” for provocation’s sake. Seems like a pretty empty gesture to me.

”I'm sorry if I'm coming off harsh in these posts, but a lot of these writers are trying to be the best they can be...”

Who the hell isn’t trying their best? Why on earth would anyone who has actually finished a novel not be presumed to have tried “their best”? True, there are geniuses out there like Lawrence Block who wrote his first novel in two weeks at the age of sixteen or something along those lines, and Michael Koryta (another “new” writer whose work I like) who finished and sold his first novel at, what? 20? Good on him.

But most of us “new writers” do try. When I started my first (mistake) novel in my early 30s, I tried very hard. I didn’t bother trying to get it published because in the end it wasn’t very good. But I learned a lot, and that acquired knowledge/wisdom is its own currency, its own form of payment.

“maybe even better than their predecessors and it's annoying to read posts that tend to have an underlying feeling that reads ‘Hey new guy, don't even try.’”

Some are better than what’s come before, some aren’t. So what? No one here is saying, “don’t even try.”

Well, no one not named “Dave White,” I guess.

I hope you’re doing better now that you’ve gotten this out of your system, Dave.
You're right. I lost my mind. I was frustrated. I give up. People are going to think what they think. This is not me. I'm quiet now.
I must have missed the posts saying that new writers can never be as good as the classics. I've seen posts saying that a lot of the stuff described as noir today isn't (which I agree with - the word gets bandied about a lot), and posts saying that there's more violence for violence's sake in todays books (which I don't tend to agree with (although I DO have my personal dislikes, as I've mentioned) - there was plenty of violence in classics, and I LOVE a lot of the violence in todays books and, again as I've said in another thread - there are some writers who do violence brilliantly, chillingly, wonderfully nastily.) I love it - sex and violence are both great - although preferably not on the same date :o)

Some wonderful new writers have come out in the last few years - Al Guthrie, Ray Banks, Duane Swierczynski, Megan Abbott, Sean Chercover, Anthony Neil Smith, Sean Doolittle, Victor Gischler...I could go on. I'm just reading and loving Steven Torres' CONCRETE MAZE and I'm getting that wonderful feeling you get when you discover a new to you author and just think "Wow".

Unless I've missed it I haven't actually seen ANYONE saying new writers just don't write as good as Chandler, Cain, Thompson etc. I love some of the classics, and I love a lot of the new stuff. It's different, because everything changes and develops, but that's great. One doesn't have to preclude the other. Who cares when it was written - a good book is a good book. And thank goodness - I have a home full of them.
There are a couple of points I would like to raise:

The rap sheet post that launched all of this discussion of late was simply Mr. Burton's opinion, but turned quickly into a lightning rod for the two sides in the discussion. I did not agree with it or the thread on here that attacked readers of violent fiction. This is not because I read these books but rather that no fiction should even be labeled as bad simply because the post author doesn't like it. The buying public will decide which authors will continue to be published by what they buy. That is the beauty of freedom of choice. We can choose NOT to buy something.

I have an issue with your perspective Dave. Your assertion appears to be that "classic" novels are restricting new authors. I'm sure this opinion is coming from prior discussions that have made you feel defensive. However my concern is that if you only read new authors or currently popular authors, you may miss out on some outstanding works. Take Dennis Lehane for example. There are a lot of new writers who refer to him as one of their influences and I hear them say they wish they could write like him. In the interview, Lehane lists Jim Thompson, Donald Westlake, Richard Price, William Kennedy, Pete Dexter, James T. Farrell, James Crumley. George Pelecanos and Daniel Woodrell as writers he enjoys the most. Jim Thompson, for example, had his most popular period in the 1950's and been dead since 1977. Some people call his work classics.

But if new authors stay clear of authors who have disappeared or have died, then can they really say that they are doing new things? That argument is the same as a painter saying that because they don't paint in the same style as artists from the renaissance that no art created in between then and now is relevant to developing their style.

There were authors doing things in the 40s, 50s and 60s that most modern authors would never try.

The concern I have is that too many authors don't read enough. There is a rich body of crime fiction out there. When we limit ourselves to a specific period to the exclusion of all others, we miss out on brilliance.

But at the same time, any author who insults readers of a specific subgenre doesn't realize they may be insulting their own fans and encouraging others to never read their work.
I think one of the points Dave is trying to make is that a lot of people are stuck in the past. However, one shouldn't ignore what has already been published. Are the crime novels of the past ten years better than those from the 1950's? I tend to think so because they build on those previous novels. There wouldn't be a Lehane without Crumley, a Crumley without Chandler, a Chandler without Hammett. To understand what makes Dennis's books so good, you have to trace his influences backwards. (You would also have to look at the non-crimewriters he recommends like Toni Morrison and Stewart O'Nan). I owe a whole hell of a lot from his list of recommendations - it was probably the best writing advice I've ever received.


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