Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ralph Dennis


from 2006

Ralph Dennis

Tommorrow night I'm going to run a piece by the writer Richard A. Moore on the subject of the most beloved obscure private eye writer who ever lived, that being Ralph Dennis who published eleven novels in his Hardman series in the early 1970s.

The books are short enough that I was able to read two of them last night preparing for this entry. The story goes, and the story is wrong, that maybe just maybe Robert B. Parker read one these got his idea for a white p.i. with a black superdude buddy. That is the one similarity the two series share and it's not much of a similarity at all. To me, on a lesser level, the mixed race buddies go back to at least The Lone Ranger.

Where Parker is resolutely BWM and upscale, Dennis is resolutely blue collar (or below). Both men prefer the worlds of their invention to the worlds most of us would call reality. Both the are very good at giving the patina of reality to their respective worlds but their wise enough not to give us naturalism in their books. Chandler was very real either.

Dennis coulda been a contender. His was a narrower fix on the p.i. field than Parker's but if he'd lived longer that might have changed. Parker is a great mass entertainer. A true and enduring star. I'm not sure that Dennis, or most of us, have that quaity in us. That's not to lessen Dennis' achievements, which are considerable. It's just that he never takes us anywhere different. He pretty much lives on the mean streets with down and outers. Parker takes on life in pro sports, life on a college faculty, life on tracking a serial killer. He's like great and classic boxer. He knows enough to keep moving.

Richard Moore is a fine writer in his own right and brings all his gifts to this intriguing piece on the sad life of another fine writer, Ralph Dennis.


Mel Odom said...

I loved the Ralph Dennis Hardman books. He wrote some other stuff, but I just didn't care for it as much.

RJR said...

Yes, I loved these books and wish Ralph Denis could have written more. I enjoyed them as much as the Tucker Coe books Westlake did.


Gregg Dearth said...

Ralph Dennis was a teacher at UNC Chapel Hill when I first met him back in the late '60's. He taught screenwriting and writing for television, The Hardman series was a way for him to earn a living after he'd gotten tired of the academic world. He had a small circle of friends in Atlanta who would meet up with him regularly at a bar in little five points, Atlanta. He was a talented man who had led a tough life. Those of us fortunate enough to know him, will always remember him with respect affection. His books were a great legacy and a testament to his sincere pursuit of quality writing.