Serial Fictionists

7 Sep

Except for a novitiate’s enthusiasm for John D McDonald’s Travis MCGee, I have not been enamored of crime store series as I discovered more and more irresistible crime story writers. I tried to stay with Robert Parker’s Spenser and early on and lost interest. Lawrence Block’s Scudder became agonizingly involved with 12 Steps and Alcoholics Anonymous. Andrew Vachhs’s Burke was compelling, especially since he so skillfully lived off the grid but you can only get so much mileage out of amorality.Thomas Perry’s Jane whitehead seemingly became a vehicle for various of her pyrotechnics. For a time, Walter Mosley’s Easy Rollins progressed convincingly—Mosley kept moving through the decades to good effect. Even highly regarded Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch became tiresome —I would maintain that Connelly’s one-off, The Poet, was his best book. In fact, both Dennis Lehane and Robert Parker most absorbing stories were the one-offs they wrote set in a Boston of the past.

Elmore Leonard has done himself proud with a long skein of fine stories but even he has, of late, succumbed to the temptation of reprising a powerful and enthralling character e.g. Raylon Givens, Karen Sisco and Jack Foley. George Pelecanos’s early stories were a series of sorts but his recent books have been woven whole cloth each time out. Reportedly though, his fine new novel, The Cut featuring a young Iraq war vet is the beginning of a string.

Under varying circumstances I have recently had cause to return to Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series(a chat), Michael Dibdin’s Zen stories (Masterpiece Theater series), Bernard Black’s Quirke (another chat)(I am tempted to propagate the New Yorker‘s erroneous assignment of a first name to Black’s hero—but no), Richard Stark’s Parker(Banville’s recommendation), John Lawton’s Inspector Troy ( joyful discovery and John Harvey’s Charley Resnick(an old and goody).

Interestingly,when I spoke to Kerr he shrewdly observed that series writers usually write one or two too many—citing Raymond Chandler as an example. I am pleased to report that that Kerr, Lawton, Stark and Harvey and, to some degree, Black have managed to enliven the ongoing stories of their heroes.

That’s good news.

Currently reading Nightwoods Charles Frazier(Random House)

2 Responses to “Serial Fictionists”

  1. Lois September 9, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Have you read the Kellermans’?

    • robertbirnbaum September 9, 2011 at 7:01 am #

      No. I don’t doubt I ‘ve overlooked some very good series.

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