Sunday, July 05, 2009

There’s No Pleasing Me


Sometimes I guess there’s no pleasing me. Back earlier in the year I posted about gratuitous violence and singled out the Edge Western Series for criticism. I also criticized the main character of the series, Edge himself, as a unrepentant sociopath. That post was “How Much Violence is Too Much?”.

Now let it be known, I do think the author, George G. Gilman (Terry Harknet), is a decent writer. The stories had a strong narrative drive and there were some pretty funny moments of black humor. But in general, I was just bothered by the unnecessary violence, and I found out later that at least some of this violence was included at the behest of the publisher and was not Gilman’s idea.

So then a friend told me that Gilman had written some later books in the series, long after the original run of the books had come to a close, that featured an older and less violent Edge. He pointed me to a website where I could download six of these as ebooks. I did so, and just finished the first one, called The Quiet Gun, on my Kindle. The verdict is: “I didn’t really like it.”

That’s where the title of my post comes from. I wanted Edge less violent and less sociopathic! Well, I got that in spades, and more. By age fifty, it appears that Edge has turned from a complete sociopath to a generally mild mannered fellow bent at all costs on staying on the right side of the law. He doesn’t even wear his gun anymore—he carries it in a carpetbag—and he’s dressed more like a “dude” than a gunslinger. He was trying to buy a wagon to get into the freight business, and didn’t even like to ride a horse anymore. In the first part of the book, he walked everywhere. It definitely felt like an alternate universe Edge. In fact, if I’d met the character in this book for the first time I would have thought he was something of a wimp.

As the book continued, Edge toughened up again and began to show flashes of the old Edge. He never, however, returned to the complete disregard for human life and decency that he’d shown in the early books of the original series. By the end, he’d become something of a gunslinger again but with apparent respect for the law and with some internal integrity. That was more in line with the kind of character I was looking for, but I was still reeling from the early story of the “meek shall inherit the earth” Edge. I guess there’s no pleasing me.

If you’d like to download the ebooks of the Older Edge series, the link is here.

And for a different view from someone who really liked the Edge series, the writer R. J. Dent, here’s another link.

As with anything, don’t just blindly accept my opinion on these books. If you’re curious, follow-up yourself. Your reading experience may vary!
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39 comments:

Scott said...

Charles,

Sounds like Edge can't find a happy medium between psychopath and simp.

Hope you and Lana had a great 4th of July. Take care!

Oh, I'm back in REHupa on a waitlist stauts.

Scott said...

Status, I mean...too much food and drink yesterday, I guess!

Travis said...

Well, just because you don't like the excessive violence doesn't mean you want the character to go completely the other way either.

Rick said...

Kind of a rough balance to work out, eh? I've never read the series, so I'll be interested to see what everyone else has to say. Now Mickey Spillane.. there was an author who never went down the road of "kinder, gentler!"

Sidney said...

Wow, I would have figured Mr. Hedges would have been killed before he reached 50. I'll have to check those out.

BernardL said...

The author may have needed a transition piece possibly before writing the older Edge books.

the walking man said...

Charles...I haven't read the books so take this for what it's worth.

You really weren't much of a hands on fighter were you? Not a lot of bar brawls or fights.

I was not a sociopath about fighting, just not one to back down easily. Preferring to not walk away; until I hit about thirty. Now that I am half way through my fifties, I wouldn't ride the horse either because the pain in the ass would have become a pain in the back and I wouldn't have carried my guns openly either because I learned after a bit that some one always wants to see if the old man still has it.

From your descriptions it sounds as if Edge has blunted a bit but I can relate to that.

writtenwyrdd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writtenwyrdd said...

I know what you mean. Sometimes you find something bugs you, and you think you want something else...but it turns out that doesn't work either.

Randy Johnson said...

I was an unabashed fan of the Edge books when I was a young man. I wish they had published them all here in America. The prices on the used book sites for those I've found of those last thirteen are way too pricey for me($28 to $300+).
I did read and enjoy those six ebooks though.

David Cranmer said...

I've never read the series and at the rate I'm reading these days never will.

Mary Witzl said...

It sounds as though the author was trying to find a balance here, but wasn't sure just how to tilt it.

I'm a huge Robert B Parker fan. I admire the way that Spencer, the PI protagonist, is not a wimp, but not a mindless killer either. Books chock full of gratuitous and aberrant violence depress me no end, but I get the feeling that some readers look out for that sort of thing. Sad, really, and disturbing.

Sarai said...

lol I have that problem with one LKH's books Anita starts off almost over the top and anti monsters by the latest book she is sleeping with so many of the monsters none of her friends recognize her. Sad really.

laughingwolf said...

i read a few of the early 'edge', as a kid, and quite liked them at the time, as i recall, more violent than the l'amour or grey, but the contrast was neat, if a tad overboard... can't really see him going too soft, no one changes 180 degrees...

Stewart Sternberg said...

Yeah, you get what you ask for. Don't ever underestimate the entertainment value of the sociopath. I understand Jeff Dahlmer could keep people in stitches for hours. And Gasey? What a clown.

Charles Gramlich said...

Scott, yeah, I’d like something without the extremes. I missed the last REHupa mailing. Just so much to do here. I hope I’ll be able to make the next one but who knows. Lana and I had a relaxing 4th at least.

Travis, yeah I certainly don’t mind violence, I just like for it to have a justification and, generally, not to be directed graphically against women, as it too often was in the early Edge books.

Rick, I’ve only read one Spillane in my life. I have a handful more and have been intending to read them.

Sidney, Lol. Yeah, he didn’t seem the kind who’d die of old age.

BernardL, I thought about that and that may be exactly what he’s doing, although I don’t quite understand the transitioning process. I may give the second of the older Edge books a try to see what happens, but not right now.

Mark, well, I wondered at first if the author was trying to show Edge physically aging, which I could understand and which would reflect the kinds of things you’re mentioning, but by the end of the book he’s riding again with no problem and all his gun fighting skills have returned to him. That told me that the author didn’t show Edge the way he was early in the book because of something physical. The reasons for the changes are psychological, and he alludes to a case, in a book I haven’t read, of where Edge apparently committed a murder. I don’t know why one murder would bother him, though, considering that he committed lots of murders in the series. There may be reasons why the author changed Edge around but it’s pretty clear it wasn’t primarily aging related.


writtenwyrdd, I thought I was pretty easy to please, though. But I am picky about the books I read, I suppose.

Randy Johnson, wow, that expensive? I’ve got about 25 of them that I got lucky enough to pick up for 10 cents each at a book sale. I may read the second one of the Older edge ebooks. As a longer term reader of the series, do you have any idea why he turned Edge’s character so much on his head in the first of the ebooks?

David Cranmer, I’m reading faster this summer since I’m off, but that’ll be over soon and then it’ll be back to glacial reading.

Mary Witzl, I’ve enjoyed the Spencer books I’ve read, but haven’t read them consistently. I did rather like the TV series with Robert Urich.

Sarai, I read the first Anita Blake book and like the 15th, and the change was so wild that it really through me off too. The later books, with all the sleeping with the monsters, was truly kind of boring.

Laughingwolf, I probably would have liked them better if I'd read them in my 20s for sure.

Stewart Sternberg, I agree. I like the fictional humorists such as Hannibal lecter the best!

ivan said...

I am out of my depth.
As a kid I moved from comic books to Louis Lamour and then into Dime Detectives, through Agatha Christie. I finally discovered Norman Mailer, and in his AN AMERICAN DREAM discovered a real psycho of a hero. KIll ya.
BTW, I have just had an offer from what might be a phoney literary agent about my novel of a professor gone over the hill, turned asshole, actually,ending up in fornicating, thinking, bar-fighting, thinking......Can't find your e-mail address. Just wondered if you'd dealt with those agents who have just mailed me. Might want to send you their profile; perhaps we can determine if they are for real or not.
Anyway, keep up the good work.

Randy Johnson said...

I don't know what the thinking was in changing the older Edge unless it was just that. Our attitudes change as we get older and we know we can't be that same person we were at eighteen to say forty.
The author may have wanted to inject that aging realism into his character. I don't know.
But as I remarked, fifty through sixty-one were never published in this country and prices are just outrageous for me.
I don't know how the character developed in those thirteen missing novels.

jodi said...

Charles, not really my genre, but I prefer violence in stories to be incidental and not pivotal in the scheme. Belated Happy 4th.!

Christina said...

I'd have to agree. Sometimes it feels like the story was forced, that it didn't really proceed thoroughly.

I like your book reviews, though my pocketbook doesn't. Some of these older books that you suggest are expensive on ebay or amazon.

Charles Gramlich said...

ivan, yeah, Mailer knew how to create a psycho. I didn't read a lot of Agatha Christie, though. My email address is kainja at hotmail dot com. I had a misfortunate experience with a crooked agent back in the 90s.

Randy Johnson, yes, I'm in a similar boat with the Dray Prescott novels, almost fifteen of those were only published in Germany and in German, although a few of those have since come out as ebooks. Could be that something happened to Edge in those missign books that we just don't know.

jodi, most of what I read and write has violence in it, but I'm kind of a traditionalist in wanting the good guys to use violence becuase they are forced into it by the badguys.

Christina, oh yes, they can be expensive. I held off buying five yard fuller for nearly a year for just that reason, hoping to find a cheapter price. I'm realizing my own book collection is worth more than I thought it was.

Rachel said...

We all have those things that we just can't seem to find right.

Lauren said...

I just got your book in the mail today. Probably won't be able to read it until next week over my vacation. I'm not a big fan of violence. I like a well crafted fight scene, but not much gore.

Erik Donald France said...

Very funny. As before, agree that even a violent character needs some balance, a little yin with his yang.

Charles Gramlich said...

Rachel, sometimes that just means we have to write it ourselves eh?

Lauren, cool. I hope you enjoy. There are quite a lot of fight scenes and probably a bit of gore. Though it's not splatterpunk at least.

Erik, yeah, I agree. In this case the yin and yang were too the extreme!

L.A. Mitchell said...

Be careful what you wish for, Charles :)

Steve Malley said...

Hmmm... while I can relate to Walking Man's take, I'm going to look at this a different way:

The story's problem is muted structure.

I *love* those westerns where the old gunslinger tries like hell to put his past behind him. Takes guff he never would have back in his bad old days.

But.

In order for that plot to work, when those guns *do* get strapped on in Act III, mayhem (and I mean MAYHEM) must follow.

Shane guns down half the staff at that ranch, including the owner and his hired killer. William Munny (The Unforgiven) gets drunk and Clint Eastwood lets us see the demon behind that man's eyes. Though it's not a western, the same plot applies in A History of Violence, and man, do the bad guys pay dearly for stirring up *that* hornet's nest.

Basically, the more milktoast the hero is at the start, the more a raging beast has to be let out of the cage at the end. If, as here, you've got a wimp who turns into... less of a wimp, it ain't gonna work.

My two cents.

(and yes, I got my internet back!)

Irene said...

You've got an interesting blog. Keep at it! Cheers! :)

Demon Hunter said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm not familiar with the books at all. I'll have to check them out. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

L.A. Mitchell, indeed. I'll know better next time.

Steve Malley, The William Munny and Shane examples are well pointed out. I think the problem is that both Shane and Munny were relatively decent sorts before, although Munny definitely had some evil in him. But Edge was a total sociopath. Good points, which I will need to think some more about now. Hurray for having the net back.

Irene, thanks, and thanks for visiting.

Demon Hunter, they're mostly way before your time, I would guess. us oldsters remember 'em though. Especially the guys.

Cloudia said...

Interesting: the presentation of ageing in a character. Sounds pretty "spot-on" in that later book. Do YOU ride your cycle as much as you used to? I don't.....
Good post, Charles (as usual)

Aloha

Comfort Spiral

ARCHAVIST said...

I guess it's eacht to their own - I just find Edge so entertaining.

X. Dell said...

Seems to me that you're talking about two different things. On one hand, you're talking about the quasi-sociopathological aspects of the Edge character. On the other, you're talking about the violence that results from his, well, evilness.

It seems to me that what you really object to is Edge's change of heart-- his loss of evil--and not necessarily the violence that accompanied it. Either that, or you really like mayhem, but the first Edge novel that you read didn't have the qualifying features that justified the wanton violence.

Perhaps, that's one reason why violent protagonists have to be goody two-shoes of another sort. As I said before, only good guys kill at will.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, I don't ride at all at the moment. Since I last totalled a bike a couple of years ago and broke a lot of bones I haven't been doing any riding.

ARCHAVIST, a lot of folks do. but it's not the first time I haven't gotten something about a series of books that others have.

X. Dell, the two naturally go together it seems to me. Most of the violence in the early series, but not all of it, came from Edge, who was definitely sociopathic. Now he's not. Sociopaths do sometimes burn out as they age, if they live, but the change of heart is a bit difficult to buy. Good point about good guys being able to kill at will.

Anndi said...

Sometimes a character gets lost, or rather, the writer does.

Merisi said...

I wonder how if a reader who has not read the earlier book(s) would like the tamer hero.

One's positive reading experience depends on more than a well written story. What the reader brings to the story is important too, in my opinion.

Charles Gramlich said...

Anndi, I suspect in this case the writer has reasons for why he did what he did but I can't figure them out. I haven't read the whole series, though, so perhaps there are clues there.

Merisi, I tried to put myself into that frame of mind and couldn't quite. I think such a naive reader might enjoy the tamer books OK though.

Angie said...

It sounds to me like a transition problem, as BernardL mentioned. Seeing a protag do a one-eighty can make for a great story, but only if the writer shows how it happened, and makes you buy that whatever experience the character had was indeed a believable motivation for the complete turn-around in personality and viewpoint. Just suddenly popping up with what's essentially a new character with the same name pasted on, no matter how many years had passed since the previous book, wouldn't do it for me either and I can see why you're annoyed by it.

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, could be there was some more set up for it in the series books I haven't read but I don't have the energy or curiosity to read all those just to see.