Saturday, November 16, 2013

Joe Gores' Interface and Donald Westlake. Hammett, too

Did Joe Gores borrow the cadence of the name of Donald Westlake/Richard Stark's Parker for his own Docker, an antagonist in Gores' 1974 novel Interface?

Docker is as ruthless as Parker, as dedicated to the proposition that work exists to be done, not fretted over. Further, a lengthy mid-novel scene in which Docker evades a string of pursuers at an airport, leaving them much worse off than when they started, reminded me of Parker in Slayground.

Finally, Gores and Westlake were friends who resorted to the delightful game of writing a chapter that included both authors' characters and using the resulting chapter in a novel by each author (Westlake's Drowned Hopes, Gores' 32 Cadillacs.)

Docker's and Parker's dedication to their dark tasks may ultimately stem from Dashiell Hammett, whose Sam Spade and Continental Op did what they had to do. Gores was among the most dedicated and accomplished of Hammettians; his novels include a prequel to The Maltese Falcon (Spade & Archer) and Hammett, in which Hammett resumes his role as a real-life detective. And Westlake, speaking of the authors who shaped his work, once told an interviewer that "For early influences we have to start, and almost end, with Hammett."

I'll be back with more, on Interface's ending. For now, though, if you like Hammett and you like Westlake, you'll like Interface. And if don't like Hammett and Westlake, like the Monticello Man said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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15 Comments:

Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Just last weekend, Allan Guthrie recommended Joe Gore's Hammett to me. We were talking about the 'behaviorist' POV that I'm trying to get the hang of for a current WIP. Guess I better get on that...

gb

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Ahem. That should have been Gores'.

gb

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Richard L. Pangburn said...

If I recall, Joe Gores dedicated the book, at least the first edition: "For that Stark villain, Parker--because he's such a beautiful human being."

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gerard, whenever I read a noir and hard-boiled novel that is less well-known that it ought to be, I always think of Allan Guthrie and his list. I have long said he ought to hold an endowed professorship in noir studies at some forward-thinking university. I once talked with the man over dinner, and all I can say is that I ever got serious about writing a novel, I'd want him in my corner in some capacity.

Is a behaviorist point view one in which the characters are accessible to the reader solely by that they do and say and not by what they think? Duane Swierczynski says that's what knocked him out about Interface. And there's another Westlake link: That's the approach Westlake said he took in his excellent novel 361.

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Richard, many thanks. I'll check my edition for that dedication this evening. I like to imagine Gores taking up a challenge his friend laid down, taking the character type and seeing what he could do with it that Stark/Westlake had not. And boy, does he come up with a cracker in Interface.

One of the things I like about Westlake is that he would so often try new things in each book. Even the less successful books are, therefore, interesting.

And one has to smile at a reference to Parker as a beautiful human being.

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

I'm very lucky to have Al as an editor and a friend. He's championed my writing for years. I hope he gets that professorship.

Yep, that's exactly what I mean by behaviorist. You'll also find an example of it in Manchette's The Prone Gunman (it mentions that he was influenced by Hammett's use of the POV in The Maltese Falcon on his Wikipedia page). I've read 361, but it was so long ago I can't remember the POV. I'll have to get it off my da (lent it to him years ago) and reread it. It was a lot darker than I expected it to be, and terrific for it.

gb

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Guthrie seems like he would be the toughest and most no-nonsense of editors. He could join Megan Abbott on that noir faculty.

And yep, Manchette may be the most chillingly exterior of crime writers. I've been reading that new volume of Hammett stories, and I also reread the first chapter of The Maltese Falcon. You've got brains, Gerard. Yes, you have.

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

My ears are burning, gents. Thank you kindly. I have to confess that although I did indeed recommend Gores' HAMMETT as an example of someone other than Hammett using that 'behaviorist' technique, the book I was thinking of was INTERFACE. (And this is why I'd be utterly useless on that noir faculty!)

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'd be fine with a good teacher's assistant. Interface is well worth the delayed recommendation.

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So, Hammett, Interface, 361, and The Prone Gunman are all behaviorist, eh? And all are near the very top of my all-time lists. Hmm.

November 17, 2013  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

I'm sure Joe Gores wouldn't complain, Al. I'm going to have to hunt out both books now. No doubt I'll find plenty to enjoy in both.

Peter, I'll take that as a sign that behaviorist is the way to go, then. Pity I can only write it at half speed. Might be worth the wait, though. Maybe.

Cheers

gb

November 18, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Ooh, I didn't know about them co-writing a chapter to use in two different books. That is seriously clever and cool.

November 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gerard, thinking of writing in these behaviorist terms also sharpens my appreciation of good writing that not behaviorist. All the emotion in Chandler came across even more strongly when I was reading some of his short fiction last night, like the sharp tang of tobacco on a foggy night. (I'm planning a trip to Los Angeles soon, so Chandler is naturally on my mind.)

November 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kelly, I had not yet read Gores or heard about the crossover when I read Westlake's Drowned Hopes. I then went back and read the chapter and enjoyed it immensely. Both novels--Drowned Hopes and 32 Cadillacs--are very much worth reading on their own. The common chapter is like melted butter on the Montreal-style bagels. Read them back to back!

November 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Richard, that dedication is in my edition, too. How could I have missed it?

Easily: My copy is an old paperback and somewhat brittle, so I did not open it as widely or lay its pages as flat as I would have with a new hardback. But I'm glad it escaped my attention. It was more rewarding to discover the connection this way.

November 18, 2013  

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