25 de gener de 2015

Why George V. Higgins but not Ross Thomas?

[Detective Beyond Borders, 23 january 2015

Peter Rozovsky

Crime writers and readers revere George V. Higgins for The Friends of Eddie Coyle, but we don’t talk much about Ross Thomas these days. This puzzles me, since Thomas was better than Higgins at some of the things Higgins is celebrated for: gritty looks at men at work, including criminals, and razor-sharp dialogue cleverly contrived to convey character and create the illusion that this is how people really speak. 

 I base these remarks on Thomas'Missionary Stew, which appeared in 1983, thirteen years after The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and that's where the caveat comes in. Though an experienced novelist by the time... Eddie Coyle appeared, could Thomas have been influenced by the younger writer, the way the similarly older, more experienced Elmore Leonard was?

I ask because the three previous Thomas novels I had read (Cast a Yellow ShadowThe Seersucker Whipsaw, and The Fools in Town Are on Our Side) either predate The Friends of Eddie Coyle or appeared the same year, and I don't remember those books bringing Higgins or Leonard to mind.

Though I don't get the esteem in which Higgins was held, I have no desire to knock him. But I would like to see a revival of interest in Thomas, and not just because he wrote with such wit about politics.

A wise commenter on my skeptical 2009 post about Eddie Coyle wrote: "I think it's comparatively rare for pioneering texts to stand up in the long term." Maybe Higgins is an example of that pioneer phenomenon, surpassed by his followers. I should like the guy, because I enjoy authors who look up to him and whose works is often compared to his: Bill James, Garbhan Downey, Dana King, Charlie Stella. 

I'd hate to think that readers and critics might be scared off by Thomas because he wrote about politics. Don't be; he makes his subject real and funny

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