Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Parker and Mary Sue


I finished Two For The Money by Max Allan Collins, which I mentioned in my book tag post.

Nearly anything one reads about this series, of which this book contains the first two novels, notes that Collins began them as homage to the Parker books by Richard Stark, which a pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake. This is noted several times in quotes by Collins himself, including in this editions afterword.

What everyone fails to note is that it seems suspiciously like a Mary Sue story.

Ok, not exactly. "Mary Sue" is one of those words that develops as a pejorative and, as such, lack some basic levels of functionality.

Mary Sue's are the characters, mostly in fan-fiction, in which a character is inserted into the story who is blatantly a stand-in for the stories author and, in the general pejorative sense, represents everything good and wonderful in the world.

Obviously Max Allan Collins is a much better writer than the average fan-fictionaire, and, in fact, these stories are wonderfully entertaining. They have well drawn characters and all the right twists and turns to make them absolute page-turners.

But you can't tell me that in writing Nolan as a Parker homage and then introducing a young comic book geek, with a particular affinity for Dick Tracy even, that is the one person who seems to warm the cold heart of his mentor, even if only a little, he wasn't giving himself a little wish-fulfillment fantasy.


UPDATE: I added a link to This Time, It’s Personal: Nolan Returns by Duane Swierczynski in comments, but I'm also adding it to the body here. In that interview with Collins, he states that the Jon character and he are " not terribly close, oddly enough. He definitely reflected my pop culture interests, but he was conceived as a character, with a specific attitude and even look that in no way resembled me."


3 comments:

Marty McKee said...

Funny you should say so. When I reviewed Collins' first Nolan novel over on my blog, I wrote that it didn't read like a Mary Sue story to me, although it unquestionably is one. Perhaps because, in BAIT MONEY at least, the Collins stand-in is definitely second banana to Nolan.

Neil Sarver said...

I can't believe I missed that review. I usually give your book reviews at least a cursory skim for interesting or amusing points, and I've actually been looking at reading this for some time.

I do agree that it doesn't at all read like a Mary Sue story, especially not "Bait Money". I'd say "Blood Money" slightly more, but only slightly. It wasn't until I was sitting back and reflecting on them that I thought of that and it made me smirk. They're definitely too well written and fun to read to be dismissed as Mary Sues, and I didn't mean at all to dismiss them as such. If I had another of these, I probably wouldn't be on the computer, but sitting on the porch reading.

Neil Sarver said...

For posterity's sake, Marty's review is at His Name's Nolan and the article he links in which Max Allan Collins addresses the similarities/differences between him and Jon in the Nolan books and says, "Not terribly close, oddly enough. He definitely reflected my pop culture interests, but he was conceived as a character, with a specific attitude and even look that in no way resembled me.", is at This Time, It’s Personal: Nolan Returns.

Marty also reviews the third book, "Fly Paper", at A Wing and a Prayer.

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