Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ralph Dennis

Tommorrow night I'm going to run a piece by the writer Richard A. Moore on the subject of the most beloved obscure private eye writer who ever lived, that being Ralph Dennis who published eleven novels in his Hardman series in the early 1970s.

The books are short enough that I was able to read two of them last night preparing for this entry. The story goes, and the story is wrong, that maybe just maybe Robert B. Parker read one these got his idea for a white p.i. with a black superdude buddy. That is the one similarity the two series share and it's not much of a similarity at all. To me, on a lesser level, the mixed race buddies go back to at least The Lone Ranger.

Where Parker is resolutely BWM and upscale, Dennis is resolutely blue collar (or below). Both men prefer the worlds of their invention to the worlds most of us would call reality. Both the are very good at giving the patina of reality to their respective worlds but their wise enough not to give us naturalism in their books. Chandler was very real either.

Dennis coulda been a contender. His was a narrower fix on the p.i. field than Parker's but if he'd lived longer that might have changed. Parker is a great mass entertainer. A true and enduring star. I'm not sure that Dennis, or most of us, have that quaity in us. That's not to lessen Dennis' achievements, which are considerable. It's just that he never takes us anywhere different. He pretty much lives on the mean streets with down and outers. Parker takes on life in pro sports, life on a college faculty, life on tracking a serial killer. He's like great and classic boxer. He knows enough to keep moving.

Richard Moore is a fine writer in his own right and brings all his gifts to this intriguing piece on the sad life of another fine writer, Ralph Dennis.


Blogger mtmorgan said...

I read and enjoyed all of the Hardman books. Not every one's perfect, but the consistency of the series is pretty amazing. Second only to Ennis Willie's Sand Shockers for me. At least as far as obscure crime stuff goes. Which begs a question, if I may: Are any of the Sands' being reprinted in the near future? Think I remember some discussion to that end when Mr. Willie reemerged some months (a year?) ago.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Gormania said...

I'm pretty sure that reprints of some Ennis Willie novels are in the works, though I can't rcall at the moment who's doing them. How about doing a piece for the blog here on oscure crime writers? You seem to know your stuff. Best Ed

6:51 PM  
Blogger mtmorgan said...

I think I might be way over my head if I tried to do anything like that. I do tend to gravitate toward fiction, regardless of genre, that *flies under the radar.* Yourself and BCrider as well as BPronzini and MACollins have pointed me in the right direction to discover some interesting stuff toward that end. And I've branched out a little on my own, but I'm not sure if I have anything cogent or revisionist to add to what's already been written about dudes I enjoy like J. Flynn, James Ross, Malcolm Braly, or Dan Marlowe(are these fellows even obscure?. I have read some obscure-ish stuff from the 80's by guys like Cherokee Paul Macdonald, Wendell Mccall, Jim Stinson, Timothy Hallinan and a few others. Stuff I haunted libraries and used bookstores to find at a time when funds were tight and I was just beginning to read as much as possible. But those books are long gone and my memory's shady/spotty at best regarding this stuff. I'm not sure what I could do that might be of interest. What did you have in mind?

3:45 PM  

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