RARA-AVIS: What are hardboiled novels?

On Thu, 27 Feb 1997, Eric D Rosenberg wrote:

: what are harboiled novels?

I started in on a FAQ a while back, and haven't done too much with it
lately, but this is more or less Question 2.  Here's what I have, feel
free to comment.  

2. Just what is "hardboiled fiction?"

   We're not really sure.

   A definition from Benet's Readers Encycylopedia of American Literature
   (HarperCollins, 1991), edited by George Perkins, Barbara Perkins, and
   Phillip Leininger:

     A type of detective or crime story in which an air of realism is
     generated through laconic and often vulgar dialogue, depiction of
     cruelty and bloodshed at close range, and use of generally seamy
     environments. The genre was perhaps a product of the prohibition
     era, but it was also a reaction against the attenuated
     prettifications of the Conan Doyle school and an attempt to apply
     the literary lessons taught by such serious American novelists as
     Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Hard-boiled fiction seems to
     have appeared first in a magazine called the BLACK MASK (founded
     1919), and its development was closely associated with the editor,
     Joseph T. Shaw. Many critics today feel that the first full-fledged
     example of the hard-boiled method was Dashiell Hammett's story "Fly
     Paper," which appeared in August 1929 in BLACK MASK. In 1946 Shaw
     including stories by Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Raoul Whitfield,
     and George Harmon Coxe. To these names should be added W.R.
     Burnett, Jonathan Latimer, and Peter Cheyney. Later, hard-boiled
     fiction in a particularly violent phase became hugely popular in
     the Mike Hammer novels of Mickey Spillane.                      

   A bit of a comment from William L. DeAndrea's Encyclopedia
   Mysteriosa (Prentice Hall, 1994).

     The term hard-boiled has been around since WWI, during which
     (according to mystery novelist Donald E. Westlake) it was an
     adjective applied to the tough drill sergeants who made men out of
     boys and soldiers out of civilians. When the war ended, those
     soldiers turned back into civilians, popularizing the term hard-
     boiled into something referring to any person, or action, that
     reflected a tough, unsentimental point of view.

   The general consensus seems to be that defining "hardboiled" is like
   defining "jazz." There are some trademarks that a lot of the stories
   will have (tough guys, tough dames, slang, guns, booze, cigarettes,
   violence, corruption, alienation and sociopathic behaviour), but you
   needn't have any or all of these to be hardboiled. Many hardboiled
   stories don't have detectives (e.g., Jim Thompson and James M. Cain).
   Some writers you wouldn't think of as fitting into the genre did write
   in a hardboiled way, and some writers who are usually classified as
   hardboiled didn't. Mario Taboada mentioned Ernest Hemingway, John Dos
   Passos and Geoffrey Household as three writers who are hardboiled, but
   never get classified with pulp writers.

I hope this helps.  The other questions are "Why 'RARA-AVIS',"
"'Hardboiled' vs. 'noir'," and "_The Black Mask_ or just _Black

William Denton : Toronto, Canada : buff@vex.net : Caveat lector.
http://www.vex.net/~buff/        <-- Anything on io.org is toast.

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