Saturday, December 28, 2013

Curmudgeon's Corner: Terence Butler

Fred Blosser RedDux

Ed here: Terence Butler is the acclaimed writer of numerous short stories.
Here he elaborates on some of the comments our friend Fred Blosser made about 
the fading popularity of some once popular mystery novelists in this age of
the internet:

Terence Butler

Is is possible that since he was writing in the wake of WW2 and during 
Korea and the buildup to SE Asian conflict, before the explosion of 
self-aggrandizement and fantasizing unleashed in the 60's, and while 
there still was a lingering idea of what literary--and real 
world--heroes had been, that JDM's books just couldn't exist anymore?

The worldly and world weary, solidly moral man willing to engage in 
struggle with a plain old bad guy who is causing problems is seen now as 
a figure from the "old school".
Readers now aren't interested in losing themselves in characters and 
locations, in back story or theme or cause and effect.
They demand that writers get them to the blood and sex or they won't 
want to keep reading...

Young people just aren't interested in the kinds of movie stars that 
could be seen as Travis either; Newman, Redford, Lee Marvin, George C. 
Scott etc. Film actors yes, but accomplished actors none the less, who 
knew the era and the man of that era.

Can you picture Matt Damon, DiCaprio, Downey et. al. as a faithful 
representation of Travis or Archer or even Harry Bosch? I can't. Maybe 
But instead of seeing Robert Newton as Long John Silver or Blackbeard we 
get Johnny Depp doing a take on Keith Richards as a rock and roll pirate.
Or we get the one-dimensional Jason Statham as the enigmatic Parker!
Et fucking cetera...

Books and movies have become bizarre, explosive, weird, nihilistic, 
random, shocking, spectacular, hypersexual, and above all, typical of 
whatever everyone else is doing, otherwise this audience which H'wood 
and publishers have trained to search out what they do will be bored 

As you well know because you're one of them, there are lots of good 
writers following the traditions, updating them,  and still getting 
overlooked. And unfortunately you don't have to be a good writer to get 
famous and wealthy. Three of my faves come to mind; Sallis, Stroby and 

My point is one that you've made many times; that we're saturated with 
media imagery and most of the audience is not capable of enjoying a good 

I've tried to get young people to read Ch. Williams and Rabe and other 
Gold Medal guys, and some have, but usually respond by asking me to read 
Lee Child or Patterson et al as if they were somehow equivalent...sigh....

Just random blabbing, but it's a thing I think about a lot. Maybe the 
Iraq/Afghan vets who want to write will bring another outlook to bear at 
some point. Something will revitalize the stuff we love. The Blues will 
not die, and genre fic is just like the blues in it's forms and 

I've been reading Dogen, a Zen master and poet from circa 1225 CE whose 
poems are as yearningly melancholic as anything Robert Johnson wrote.

PS Have you noticed the web trend toward alerting and apologizing to 
readers for articles perhaps being too long? Poor babies!! Sheeeshh...
Happy New Year to all of you! XXOO  C&T

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