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Light House

11.04.05 | 6 Comments

A recent debate on the merits of art vs. entertainment (a good roundup by La Weinman here) got me started thinking about what kinds of stuff I myself want to write, and why. The upshot: I want to write entertaining stories, and if they rise above “mere” entertainment, well, that’s a bonus.

That’s not to say I don’t want to write stories with great characters, or stories that say something about the human condition, but it is true that, to me, their value as entertainment trumps most other considerations. In part this is because sometimes great writing comes with drawbacks built in. Raymond Chandler, David Goodis, and James Ellroy all write directly from their psyches to the page, and they’ve produced some great and powerful stories, but their stories are also flawed in some ways.

Part of this is a renewed emphasis on craft on my part – how can I take these characters and this plot and write them as cleanly as possible? I remember reading, years ago, that light verse must be much more tightly constructed than the more serious variety, and I’d say that’s true with fiction, too. You can forgive whatever flaws you find in “Rew Wind” or “Trouble Is My Business”. You might not be so generous to “Bonnie And Clyde’s Last Ride”.

The power of a realization like this is that it frees me from guilt, the guilt of not writing what I “ought” to be writing. I did my best to leave that behind when I chose to write crime fiction, and I’m not going to feel bad about it now.

OK, that’s pretty ponderous stuff, so let’s switch gears: “It was the only job I was qualified for, besides running around in my underwear beating the shit out of people.” Can we just decide that Pat Lambe is “the Ray Banks of America”? He’s got the same dark humor, the same keen eye for the day-to-day realities of the working class, and a powerful narrative voice to match the inimitable Banquitez.

The rest of the latest issue of Thug Lit is also pretty good. This one and Crime Scene Scotland, also new to me, make the passing of Plots With Guns a litle easier to take.

(Oh, and Dave, if you’re lucky you’ll someday be known as “the Graham Powell of New Jersey”. If you’re lucky.)

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