Richard Wheeler is talking about westerns here. But to some degree I think same old old same old applies to all genres. Occasionally I pick up a new book is that is so much by the numbers it startles me. I suppose the saving grace for me is voice. I've read many books that offer little fresh but the voice. Voice, for me, is the great redeemer. Even the most tired entry in long running series is a worthy read if the voice is there. When everything else went to hell, for instance, Archie Goodwin's sarcasm carried the tale.
Here's Richard Wheeler:
I had occasion recently to read a classic gunfighter novel by a very successful western novelist. It carefully strung together every cliche of that sort of story ever invented. There was a large range war, with big and little players, a new-minted sheriff who was a gunslick, and the war attracts gunmen, all with reputations. The usual smartass kid, eager to test himself against the sheriff, ends up surprised by the two bullets in his chest. The usual heavyweight gunman is approaching from afar, the one the sheriff dreads, his progress toward the town somehow mysteriously telegraphed, and of course that confrontation comes at the end of the book. There were backshooters, trick shooters, two-gun shooters, fast-draw shooters, slow-draw aim-and-kill types, and confrontations every few pages.
A lot of people buy these stories, and that is the mystery I hope you will answer for me. When it comes to this sort of thing I'm dumb as a stump. Why do people buy a pocketbook that exactly reiterates hundreds of previous stories of the same sort? The word, novel, derives from the French, nouvelle, meaning new, and yet the purchasors of this sort of fiction don't want anything new. They want the same characters and same situations and same mythology. They want all westerns to be as close to this model as can be written.
It is as if the gunfighter story is not really entertainment for them, but some sort of ritualized affirmation of manhood. Of course these stories have little or nothing to do with the actual West.
Is this true of other realms of genre fiction? Are noir novels essentially the same? Why do people purchase the same story over and over and over?