Tuesday, August 08, 2006

speaking of Hemingway ...

In Behind the Mystery, crime/mystery writer Stuart Kaminsky's collection of interviews with other crime/mystery writers, published last year, Elmore Leonard is asked about his favorite writers.

"Hemingway was the one I studied very, very closely," Leonard tells Kaminsky, in an interview conducted in the former's home in suburban Detroit. "He made it look so easy. There's a lot of white space on his page with all dialogue. He relied on dialogue and didn't describe people physically in detail, yet you knew them. That is one of my rules. Describe very briefly."

I supposed that's true for Hemingway's short stories, but I recall a number of carefully detailed descriptions of major characters in his novels.

By the way, Kaminsky's interviews, with the likes of James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Ed McBain and Joseph Wambaugh are interesting and occasionally enlightening if less than compelling.

I didn't know, until reading Burke's interview, conducted at his Louisiana home, that he is a first cousin of Andre Dubus, whose astonishing, razor-sharp short story, "Killings" (Kaminsky inadvertently calls it "Killing") inspired the screenplay of the film In the Bedroom.

Laurie Roberts' beautiful black-and-white photographs really add depth to these short word portraits of famous authors.

Interesting about all the Florida connections -- Kaminsky lives in Sarasota; former Sarasota resident Roberts now lives in Los Angeles; and Connelly recently returned to the Gulf coast of Florida after a long residency in L.A.

Connelly's recently published Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, also includes a tip of the hat to Hemingway.

Michael Carlson, in his afterword, has this to say: "In the 1930s many people compared Hammett to Hemingway, often suggesting Hammett was there first with hard-boiled prose. This was unfair to Hemingway, because In Our Time is crated with a bare purity that has rarely been matched. Hemingway attributed that purity to learning 'cable-ese,' the pared-down prose necessary to save on the cost of wiring his reporting back to the paper at home. But neither writer has the raw, hard-boiled quality of Paul Cain's Fast One or Raoul Whitfield's Green Ice. Look elsewhere in Hemingway or at some of Hammett and you'll find prose crafted in an almost romantic manner, because they refuse to submit completely to cynicism; they've seen too much of reality for that."

Crime Beat is a sometimes fascinating, sometimes redundant collection of Connelly's crime stories from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times.

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