Alan Guthrie is not only a spectacularly good novelist and short story writer, he's also a fine historian of the hardboiled field and one of its savviest commentators. Here's from an interview he did with Dave Zeltersman a few years ago. I quote it here because the other night I talked about how the whole idea of craft sometimes gets lost in all the book hype about The Next Big Thing. Alan, commenting on James McKimmey, who published crime novels primarily in the Sixties and Seventies, defines what makes a good solid novelist...a good solid novelist:
As for what makes McKimmey special — it's a combination of factors but among them are these: his understanding of plot construction, his handling of tension, the emotional transitions of his characters, and their incredible depth and subtlety. SQUEEZE PLAY is a fine example of all the above. If you're fond of the kind of novel where you take a basically nice guy, then shovel grief on him, and then, when he can't take any more, you add another shovelful, you'll like this one.
Not part of the deal, pal.
Last week I expressed reluctant sympathy for Senator Larry Craig. I did so, as I said, despite the fact that he has a despicable voting record on many matters, including gay rights. No same sex marriages for Larry; not even civil unions; and if you visit violence on a gay man or woman, no hate crime law in case the local authorities don't feel like prosecuting. A terrible guy, really, Larry. But it instantly became clear that even though the GOP had given Catholic Man of The Year (yes) David Vitter a walk because the sex involved was straight, Craig was going to pay big time. So the sight of the lynch mob chasing even a creep like Craig was an ugly spectacle.
But this jerk didn't understand that my sympathy--usually reserved for cats and old Gold Medal writers--was extended based on the assumption that Craig would be leaving congress for good. And spend time hanging with all his NRA buddies who I'm sure will be understanding of his dilemma.
Now he wants to come back to the senate.
FU, Craig. That wasn't part of the deal.
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His calculations on the phone conversation being played just now are far more revolting than anything he might have done in that restroom.
I got a rather testy off-blog message from a reader who thinks I'm bashing the GOP because I'm a Dem. I TRY to be a Dem these days but I can't do it. Right now there isn't a single Dem presidential candidate I'd vote for. It's an inept gutless party. Nancy Pelosi recently found time to sign a publishing contract for her autobiography. Apparently she doesn't have much else to do. Harry Reid is a cipher and a crook to boot. The GOP on the other hand is a party of greed, corporate corruption and a sickening hypocritical take on what does or doesn't constitute "morality." I feel sorry for Senator Craig personally, as one human being to another, and I take no pleasure in his humiliation. He was treated shamefully by his party but his voting record is so inextricably bound up with its cynicism and lies that I'm not sorry to see him return to private life.
I have to agree about Senator Craig. I'm 58 and been a Republican since I was old to register. But I'm horrified at what the GOP has become, a party of revolving morality. Vitter and Craig are both hypocrites. I have no problem with Craig being gay or even Vitter using prostitutes. It's the do as I say, not as I do attitude that I have problems with. I think I'm what the GOP fears worst, someone with a brain that can think for himself. I don't see a candidate for either party that I'd vote for at this time.
As a Democrat, I'll vote for whoever they nominate, but I am not happy with the choices either. I think Hillary's campaign is being financed by Republicans who know she can't win with her negatives.
I guess I'll vote for Edwards in the primary but that's a hopeless case. My first choice would be Al Gore but even he has a typical case of the "self righteous" streak that has haunted the party since Carter.
Why don't we produce better candidates? Probably the money thing.
Yes, the money thing and the gutless thing and the smug thing. As an irritable Green (I haven't been particularly excited about a presidential candidate since Sonia Johnson ran as the Citizens Party candidate in 1984), Sam Brownback was by a hair the most loathsome of the GOP candidates in the FNC debate last night, but even with Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee seeming to have at least a shred of dignity and independent thought about them (not that I find myself agreeing enough with either of them by a long ways to find either worthy of support), it's a dispiriting bunch. As are the Democrats, who are largely showboats, 1970s Republicans, or both.
The game is rigged...we'll see what happens. I'd bet up to a buck on the likelihood of President Rodham-Clinton, and so the parade of mediocrity-at-best will continue...Sonia Johnson, it might be noted, couldn't even vote for herself, since she, as I, was a Virginia resident in 1984.
It seems at this point that Craig is resigning, after all. We'll see how this might weathervane.
Somewhere many years ago, I read a favorable comment about him by John D. MacDonald -- about McKimmey that is, not Larry Craig.
I would enjoy the ongoing farce of national politics more if I didn't feel so sick about the sorry mess we're handing our kids and grandchildren.
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