Thursday, February 04, 2010


Whether you appreciate crime fiction can be all about character.
The characters in the books, and frequently the character of the author, or the translator.
I have found that, almost without exception, the people who write about [or translate books about] the nasty side of life are very nice people, with their feet firmly on the ground.

This is from an essay, The Writing Life by George Pelecanos:

In the summer of 1968, two months after the riots, I went to work for my father at his lunch counter and carryout,.......................

My life has accelerated to a different level these past two years. I travel extensively, both nationally and abroad, to promote the books. I've done readings in rowdy London pubs, drank Guinness and Irish whiskey in Dublin, eaten like a king in Athens, walked through Paris at Christmas time, and appeared on prime-time television shows overseas. I've been flown to foreign arts festivals to introduce and discuss my beloved westerns and film noirs.
I ride in limousines, stay in first class hotels, meet with rappers and actors on film projects, hear my voice on NPR and routinely see my face in magazines and newspapers.

And honestly, I just laugh, I laugh because I know where I came from, and that's not me.

Fame can affect actors, sportsmen, and politicians, who believe their own publicity even as they tarnish and then destroy their carefully created image.
But can a writer enjoy a very luxurious lifestyle, and still maintain the ability to paint a realistic portrait of life on the street?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - That's a very interesting question!! Not having achieved that level of fame and wealth, my first reaction is that I'd like to think I would retain my own "regular person" perspective on life. Who knows, though? As you say, great fame and money does affect people. There are plenty of authors (we could all make a list) whose books start out firmly rooted in real life, only to go downhill as books sales and fame increase. Possibly that's because of the fame. It's also possibly because the author loses touch with the basic talent and skills that got him or her famous in the first place. Or because the author hasn't got a group of trusted friends and family members to keep him or her grounded. I know, rather a muddled answer to your question, but that is my first reaction.

If fame in music can be any comparison to fame in writing, I do know that there are several extremely talented and famous music stars who seem to have retained their down-to-earth perspective. In interviews and other situations, they seem like "real people" who are still in touch with their roots. That leads me to believe it's possible in writing, too.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I think he/she can. Just like ordinary people can write about rich people, men can write female characters and modern people can write historical fiction. So the rather widespread advice: write what you know, may be helpful, but if no one tried to write what they donĀ“t know, I am sure we would miss a lot of excellent stories.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Good question, and yes I think so, if they keep in touch with old friends and family, or simply do research. I am always reminded of Stef Penny's Tenderness of Wolves and how shocked the literarti seemed to be when they discovered she'd never been to Canada but researched it in the British Library. I suppose writing about a lifestyle you left behind is similar. I do think it is very possible to imagine lives and worlds different from one's own, and write realistically about it, either journalism or fiction (or non-fiction).

9:43 AM  

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