I donâ€™t read a hell of a lot at all because Iâ€™ve pretty well used up my head by evening and most of the time I like to look at a ballgame. And, of course, Boston is the place to watch ballgames.
EB: Iâ€™m a New Yorker â€“ I hope that doesnâ€™t cause us any trouble.
RBP: [tauntingly] Ha ha, ha ha!
EB: Another author, if you donâ€™t mind. I was thinking about who was up there with Spenser in terms of the breadth of what the character has done and popular readership, and thatâ€™s John D. MacDonaldâ€™s Travis McGee series.
RBP: I never met him â€“ he was nice. He plugged me in my early career. I frankly was never a great fan of Travis McGee. I donâ€™t quite know why I didnâ€™t like him but I didnâ€™t. I thought he was good but I never really looked forward to reading books by him.
Chandler was clearly the supreme master, in my view. Hammett was great in about two instances. The Maltese Falcon was probably the finest detective story ever written, and itâ€™s downhill from there fairly sharply. I love Rex Stout and he did a batch and they were never not good. And it was such a good idea. He took the English story â€“ Holmes and Watson â€“ and he Americanized them. Do I understand the plots? No, but I loved those characters. Itâ€™s like visiting old friends every time I read them.
EB: How about a personal favorite of mine, Stephen King?
RBP: I think heâ€™s a great talent who needs editing. I like Steve, we know one another, weâ€™re kind of friends. I think his talent is enormous. I think he writes too long. He probably thinks I write too short. But I think it was grand that he got a serious award. I think that there is nothing stupider than the tendency of the intellectual community to equate popularity with mediocrity. It is of course self-congratulatory. They can therefore say, â€śWell, I like this work and all those klutzes donâ€™t, so I must be smarter than they are.â€ť Maybe not.
I mean, I live in Cambridge and Iâ€™m surrounded by Harvard people â€“ theyâ€™re dumb! PhD does not make you smart, it just means you have a certain amount of endurance. So I think that it was great that King got [the award]. Heâ€™s a major spokesperson for the Fuck You attitude toward the literary establishment and says what he thinks about literature. Heâ€™s a very smart guy, and I like him. I donâ€™t read him much, because his stuff scares the hell out of me. I donâ€™t like horror and science fiction stories.