Genre fiction is as competitive as prizefighting. The current champion of thriller writers in America is Elmore 'Dutch' Leonard. With the imminent release of the film Stick (a much-hyped but somewhat limp adaptation directed by and starring Burt Reynolds) he should make number one here, too. Leonard's eminence ties in with the emergence of Miami as the new crime fashion centre of the United States. Styles have changed. Chicago was speakeasies and gangs; Las Vegas high-rolling casinos; New York, the five Mafia families. Miami crime has no roots in long-standing urban deprivation, minority ethnic solidarity, or the anomalies of state gambling laws. It was created by a series of rapid influxes of people, capital and contraband all cooked in the Sun Belt's year-round summer. First came the monied retirees, who triggered off the real-estate boom (this is the background to John D. MacDonald's underrated Condominium). Secondly, the mind-boggling sums of money generated by middle-class America's insatiable appetite for prohibited cocaine. Thirdly, the invasion by criminal classes educated in villainy outside the US - in Cuba, Haiti and Colombia. Fidel Castro's exporting his entire population of moral incorrigibles from Mariel in 1980 topped off the anti-social mixture nicely.
LRB 5 September 1985 | PDF Download