Kenneth Fearing Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis
Kenneth Fearing was so determinedly an artist of an avant-garde sensibility that even his most conventional work is marked by some unusual stylistic and structural devices. His concern for the innovative worked against his instinctive gift for constructing an elaborate but ultimately rigorously clear and logical mystery story, and his desire to provide a sympathetic perspective for all of his major characters tended to limit the depth of the central character in each of his novels. At the same time, Fearing’s inclination to see events from a consciously unconventional stance contributed to his ability to capture the distinctive psychological ethos surrounding his characters, and this permitted him to portray his protagonists as versions of the modernist rebel/hero wavering on a fault line between legal and criminal behavior.
Fearing’s life as an artist anticipated the drift into bohemian patterns of living pursued on a widespread if temporary basis in the 1960’s, but although most would-be dropouts in the 1960’s went fairly quickly from an extreme radicalism back to a standard job and its concomitant demands, Fearing managed to combine relatively conventional employment with a sustained commitment to his avant-garde artistic credo. While supporting himself as a copywriter, publicist, and editorial writer for several New York newspapers, he wrote poetry steadily, beginning with a Carl Sandburg-influenced voice of the proletariat but gradually...
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