Yes, another cranky post from Gorman...
Tonight Patti Abbott talks about the use of backstory in fiction. I thought I'd post my response here.
One of the reasons I read so little contemporary hardboiled crime fiction is because there is so little character development. The old hardboiled stuff had its character cliches but so does the new stuff. You see same characters again and again all comepeting to be cool and stylish in that neo-noir way.
This is probably my age showing yet again. But I grew up reading Hemingway and Falkner and Fitzgerald and John O'Hara and Irwin Shaw (short stories) and Cheever and I was always aware that some of their greatest art was in how they used backstory to enrich the reading experience. Hell, some of their best writing and most stunning observation was in the backstory.
And I found the same thing in JohnD, Charles Williams, Peter Rabe, Vin Packer, W.R. Burnett etc.
I realize that fiction has changed, in many respects for the better, but terseness for the sake of terseness gets tiresome to me.
If you want to know how backstory can be just as powerful and compelling as fron story (and not slow the action) I recommend reading Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara.