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.

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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