RICHARD STARK: The detective story died about thirty years ago, but that’s okay. Poetry died hundreds of years ago and there’re still poets. By “die,” by “dead,” I mean as a hot center of public interest. In the Thirties you could have honest-to-God detective stories, on the bestseller lists. Ellery Queen, for instance. The detective story was hot when science was new, with gaslight and then electricity, telephones, automobiles, everything starting up, the whole world seeming to get solved all at once, in one life span. World War II shifted the emphasis from gaining knowledge to what you’d do with the knowledge, which is kill people. So the big postwar detective was Mike Hammer, who couldn’t deduce his way up a flight of stairs, and the emphasis shifted from whodunit to who’s-gonna-get-it. The Mike Hammer thing leads into all these paperback hobnail vigilantes with their Thesaurus names: the Inflictor, the Chastiser, the Flaggelator. Deduction, the solving of a mystery–they don’t even put in a token appearance anymore.
MODERATOR: But does that mean you yourself have given up the mystery field, thriller field, whatever label you may choose?
RICHARD STARK: Grrrrrrrrr.
MODERATOR: Sorry. But no new Parker novel has been published since 1974. Have you given up writing crime novels, thrillers, or–um.
RICHARD STARK: Parker is a Depression character, Dillinger mythologized into a machine. During the affluent days of the Sixties he was an interesting fantasy, but now that money’s getting tight again his relationship with banks is suddenly both to the point and old-fashioned. He hasn’t yet figured out how to operate in a world where heisting is one of the more rational responses to the situation.
MODERATOR: Tucker Coe, do you agree?
TUCKER COE: Well, yes and no, I suppose. In a way. Looking at all sides of the issue, without becoming overly involved in a too personal way, if we could avoid that, insofar as it’s ever really possible to avoid personal involvement in a discussion of one’s own work, I suppose the simple answer is that for me the detective story was ultimately too restricting. Others, of course, might find possibilities I missed. I’m sure they will, and the problem was as much in me as in the choice of character and genre.
MODERATOR: Would you care to amplify that, to give us further insights into–
RICHARD STARK: Watch it. Go ahead, Tuck.
TUCKER COE: Thanks. The problem for me was that Mitch Tobin wasn’t a static character. For him to remain miserable and guilt-racked forever would have changed him into a self-pitying whiner. My problem was, once Mitch Tobin reaches that new stability and becomes functional in the world again, he’s merely one more private eye with an unhappy past. Not to name names but don’t we have enough slogging private eyes with unhappy pasts?