Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Bouchercon 2015 panels: Billy Rags, Ted Lewis' American(-style) melodrama

Billy Rags is the most deliberately American of the Ted Lewis novels I've read, and the debt is more to the mid-century melodramas that later became known as film noir than it is to the more-often invoked Raymond Chadler.

The narrator/protagonist of the 1973 novel by the author of Get Carter (Jack's Return Home) invokes The Street With No Name and Richard Widmark, for example. (It also give a mention to René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, that Englishman who read James M. Cain, grabbed some maps and a dictionary, took the name James Hadley Chase, and wrote No Orchids for Miss Blandish.)

Billy Rags' story arc, particularly its ending, could have come straight from a 1940s filmed melodrama, and I won't spoil much if I reveal that the protagonist comes to a bad end without, however, dying.  The clincher, however, is that the phrase "no choice" and variants thereof recur throughout the book as a near-didactic invocation of all those doomed characters played by the likes of Widmark and Sterling Hayden, from back in the days when when lead characters died.

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Jordan Foster will discuss Ted Lewis as part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, N.C.,  called "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, and Macdonald." The panel happens Thursday, Oct. 8, at 2:30 p.m. 

© Peter Rozovsky 2015 

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