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Gun in cheek : a study of alternative…

Gun in cheek : a study of "alternative" crime fiction (1982)

by Bill Pronzini

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Reprint of Pronzini's affectionate 1982 look at what he calls "alternate classics"--that is, books so bad they're good, is fun at first but grows a bit tedious. The lengthy repetitions of the plots are not as interesting or funny in some cases as he thinks they are. The series of quotations from various writers fares better, with some real gems of mixed metaphors and pure gibberish standing out. Pronzini isn't consistent in his critiques, either. He veers from the really really bad (Stephen Harry Keeler) to the sometimes bad (Richard Prather) to a few authors who maybe aren't so bad after all. He is also very skeptical that any author he considers to have written an "alternate classic" may have been aware of what he was doing, which perhaps speaks to a general lack of perception on Pronzini's part. The book is also quite dated. I'm happy that no one has gone back and updated lines such as "and is still writing," but Pronzini misses a few other targets he could skewer for their sometimes unbearably bad prose, including John D. MacDonald, whose blurb is on the back cover.

Still, despite my criticisms, this is a worthwhile work for anyone interested in the history of the mystery genre (or spy fiction or thrillers or even gothic, none of which Pronzini can resist talking about). I see that there is even a sequel. Perhaps it is better? ( )
  datrappert | Mar 21, 2017 |
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For all those who love a mystery
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I think I know why Bill Pronzini asked me to write an introduction to a book that really needs none. (Introduction)
In recent years, those of you who love the mystery have been pleased to note the publication of an increasing number of critical works devoted to the genre and its writers. (Chapter 1)
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