Friday, May 26, 2006

Heir to Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald?

On the discussion list Shortmystery, it's being debated whether Robert B. Parker's writing is as evocative of Chandler as the blurb says. My contribution below:

I'd say Parker's later novels are more commercial/less substantial than his early work. He isn't the most evocative of Chandler, but this is because of the innovations he has tried to make. It's a tough proposition to be both evocative of someone and original.

Spenser is well adjusted (not a brooder), with a gregarious sense of humor, a long-term love interest, and a wide circle of friends—all deviations from Marlowe.

Parker drew mentions of Hammett, Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and John D. MacDonald simply because he was the next guy to come along (debuting 1973. The blurb you see on many of the paperbacks is quite old.). Pronzini's first Nameless book in 1971 also drew mentions of Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald.

In my opinion, Parker's prose was better crafted early than recently, but while some call it simple, it does the job, creates a mental image, advances a story. Many of his early books had psychological depth which his prose clarified admirably.

Today's Parker evokes Elmore Leonard more than Chandler. He isn't as imaginative as Block or Pronzini, but the lessons of his writing are subtlety and economy, despite his smug public persona.

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