Friday, April 04, 2014

You can take the book out of the genre, but you can't take the genre out of the book

I don't know if reviewers were saying "transcended the genre" back in 1976, but they edged awfully close when they discussed Trevanian's novel The Main.

The author himself says he had high ambitions for the book, intending at first to write it under the name Jean-Paul Morin to distinguish it from the thrillers he had written under the Trevanian byline. (His real name was Rodney William Whitaker.):
"Well, The Main came out, and readers who associated the Trevanian name with crisp, shallow action novels blinked and wondered what the ****?!"
I have not read those thrillers, The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction, or seen the Clint Eastwood movie based on the former, but amid its slow buildup and its somber urban anthropology and its study of character, The Main plants two classic thriller time bombs in its early chapters. Each follows the "Will X accomplish Y before Z happens?" formula and, while they're surprising in light of what surrounds them, they work.

What novels can you name by authors who step out of their customary genres or who write in multiple genres? What do you think of such books? Do hallmarks of one genre show up in the author's work in a different genre?

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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12 Comments:

Blogger John McFetridge said...

Although I wouldn't call Adrian McKinty's Dead Trilogy, "shallow action novels," they are a different enough genre than his Troubles Trilogy to fit here, I think.

And in his latest novel he combines police procedural, action thriller and locked room mystery. So, what's the opposite of, "stepping out of his genre," and stepping into many genres at once?

Other than ballsy, I mean.

April 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'd call a bravura performance, full of flair and brio that shows the author is a force to be reckoned with on the crime scene.

A funny thing about The Main: Trevanian obviously researched his ass off, and it shows, and the book still works very well.

April 04, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever desiring to put the name of my favorite Mostly-Non-Translated into English writer, Andrea Camilleri before an audience of readers of English and hopefully drum up support for the translation of his work, I submit his name as one of the most talented out of genre writers, or multi genre writers of our times. And that’s saying a lot. Sicily of 1890 or so is the setting for several hilarious novels with wildly complicated plots. Another series features heartbreaking evocations of tragic incidents in Sicilian history. He has completed a trilogy after Ovid featuring Metamorphoses of various types. He has written a selection of novels on Sicily during fascism. He’s tackled the art world of Renoir, Caravaggio with his latest art study on the love affair between Alma Mahler and Oscar Kokoschka. He’s written about Sciascia, Pirandello and the pizzini of Provenzano. Unfortunately, all English only readers know of him are his Montalbano books. I hope that soon changes. An early novel ,Hunting Season, has appeared this year. One can only hope . . .

April 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And, happily, The Hunting Season is translated by Stephen Sartarelli, who translated the Montalbano novels.

I knew Camilleri had written for many years before the first Montalbano novel appeared, and I knew he was as admirer of Sciascia's, but I had known nearly as much about his career as you just mentioned. I would love to read the Metamorphoses book. And isn't Camilleri a distant relative of Pirandello's or weren't his parents Pirandello's friends?

April 04, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Metamorphoses Trilogy novels are lovely. Their titles are Maruzza Musumeci, Il Casellante and Il sonaglio and besides Italian are available in German and French translations. He details the Pirandello, Camilleri connection in his thoughtful and perceptive look at Pirandello in the book Biografia del figlio cambiato. (They were both sulfur families from the Agrigento area) La mossa del cavallo is the funniest book I ever read.

And thanks to you for giving me forum space

April 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for commenting. I'm pretty sure my Italian is not good enough to let me read those novels, and I'm not sure my French is good enough, either, but I could look for them anyhow. I read The Metamorphoses years ago and loved it. I would be curious to see how it inspired Camilleri.

April 04, 2014  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

A friend whose opinion I respect very much is crazy about Trevanian. Now I have even more reason to move him up the list.

April 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Which books of his has your friend read? I was intrigued to read that Trevanian was surprised that readers and reviewers did not recognize The Eiger Sanction as a spoof and so wrote an even broader spoof, in The Loo Sanction.

April 04, 2014  
Blogger Cary Watson said...

A name that popped to mind was Elleston Trevor, who wrote under nine different names, most notably as Adam Hall. He wrote spy, crime, adventure and children's fiction. And then there's writers like John D. Macdonald, Westlake, and less notable ones who came out the pulp era who wrote in any genre that would pay them. Lester Dent, who created Doc Savage in the 1930s, also wrote noir crime in the '50s. And Ray Bradbury's short stories cover the whole spectrum of genres. One current writer I'm a huge fan of is Geraldine McCaughrean, who's equally brilliant in Young Adult and literary fiction. For my money she's probably the best writer in English at the moment.

April 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't know Adam Hall was anyone but Adam Hall. And I'd forgotten about the pulp guys, any number of whom wrote across genres--Fredric Brown and Raoul Whitfield, to name two. I suppose Trevanian stuck out for me because he came after that era, well into the age of specialization.

April 05, 2014  
Blogger Caleb Deupree said...

Dan Simmons is most well known for SF, horror and dark fantasy, but he also has a series with ex-con PI Joe Kurtz (none of which I've read) and a very entertaining historical espionage thriller featuring Ernest Hemingway, The Crook Factory.

April 06, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Caleb: Welcome, and thanks for the comment. Dan Simmons is a ubiquitous name, but I've never read him. (It's a good, tough-guy name, too. I wonder if it's his real one.) The Crook Factory sounds worth a look.

April 06, 2014  

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