Sunday, August 07, 2016

My Bouchercon 2016 panel: Meet Peter Rabe

Peter Rabe's gangster/fixer characters seem driven toward confrontations with their bosses that do not generally end well (though Daniel Port, the political fixer of the Glass Key-like Dig My Grave Deep, [1956] survived his confrontation long enough to feature in a series of novels.)

The Box (1962), A Shroud for Jesso (1955), and, believe it or not, Kill the Boss Good-By (1956), also turn on conflicts between ambitious underlings and the top men who punish them or stand in their way.   Can you imagine what sort of father-figure  psychobabble Ross Macdonald would have wrung out of material like that?  Rabe, a trained and practicing psychologist, on the other hand, avoided Macdonald's embarrassing amateur Freudianism, concocting instead stories of men who, while not necessarily trapped, just do what they have to, as dictated by their temperament, or circumstances, or ambition.

It's harder to find crime-fiction parallels for Rabe than it is for some authors, perhaps because, with two exceptions, Rabe said his influences came from outside crime fiction. (One of those two exceptions was Dashiell Hammett, so you know he had good taste.)

If you don't know Rabe or his work, this 1989 interview with him is a good place to start. If you do know Rabe, you may find his admiring comments about Donald Westlake especially interesting. Rabe also comes across as surprisingly genial for a man whose life included escape from Germany to avoid the Nazis, a false diagnosis of a terminal disease, several marriages and divorces, and ups and downs in his writing career that eventually led him so stop writing for publication. The man seems to have been pretty well adjusted for a psychologist.

Rick Ollerman will talk about Peter Rabe as part of my panel called "From Hank to Hendrix: Beyond Chandler and Hammett: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Original Eras" at Bouchercon 2016. It happens at 9 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Marriott, 555 Canal St., New Orleans, Room LaGalleries 1.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016 

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