On his blog tonight Bill Crider reviews John D. MacDonald's Where is Janice Gantry, a Gold Medal from the early Sixties. I've always remembered it for its strong, evocative opening. And the story holds up throughout. Bill offers his usual incisive criticism and makes a point we've both discussed before. Here's Bill:
"MacDonald has his flaws, the irritating male/female dialog exchanges chief among them, but when it came to getting down the details of his time (he seemed to know everything about everything) and creating memorable characters, situations, and stories, he was hard to beat. I know some younger readers find him slow. I can't imagine that, but maybe the attention to detail, character, and description has something to do with it. Times and tastes (not mine) have changed."
Awhile back I did a signing at a mystery store. I happened to be sitting in front of a shelf of John D paperbacks and so when readers and I began bandying writer names back and forth it was logical I'd bring him up. Those over forty-five were big fans of JDM. The under forty-fives seemed to find him slow. Too much description and psychology.
I held my temper in check (though I did later take an ice pick to several tires)-- Kidding. I wanted to know who the younger people were reading. And to quote Gomer Pyle surprise surprise--they were reading younger writers. They liked stripped down, they liked larger than life, they liked thrill upon thrill. Some of the "new" writers are already middle aged. But they don't write like it.
There's a new generation just as there'll always be a new generation. And while all of us read back and forth across the decades, there's definitely a new style, a new voice, a new take on the kind of hardboiled crime fiction Bill and I grew up reading.
No right or wong here. Just many gifted new writers showing us duffers some new dance steps.