RARA-AVIS: What Constitutes Hard-Boiled?

Frank Denton (bearlodge@classic.msn.com)
Thu, 15 Jan 98 06:47:59 UT The comments in #164 were excellent and perhaps have helped a bit with what
I've been struggling with. I've been confused by some of the writers who have
been discussed and trying to sort out exactly what constitutes hard-boiled.
I've been assiduously going through the archives and recall that there was an
attempt back at the beginning, in January of '97, to come up with a reasonable
definition. I'm going to have to try to find those discussions again and see
what I can make of the definitions, in light of what I've read over the past
couple of months. (Aside to Bill: I don't know if it can be done but it would
be much easier if the archives were in the digest form so one could retrieve a
day at a time instead of just a message. Just a comment, not a complaint.)

Anyway, Etienne Borgers comments that he places Ross Macdonald in the third
echelon of writers he considers hard-boiled. Early last year I read THE
GALTON CASE and I didn't think of it as hard-boiled. Nor others that I have
read throughout the years. Then Mario comes along and although he admits that
there are weaknesses in Macdonald's writing, still he is a writer whom Mario
reads and rereads. What is one to think. I'm reminded of the remark of an
early science fiction writer (I forget who; someone will undoubtedly remember)
who said, "Science fiction is whatever I point at and say, 'that's science
fiction.'" Obviously we have here much the same thing. What one person thinks
of as hard-boiled another thinks is not. By the way, I'd be very interested
in hearing which writers Etienne places in the first and second echelon, in
his view.

Rick Robinson checks in with some questions, the third of which was the one
that I've been struggling with. Recently a bookshop owner friend handed me a
novel and said, "If you want hard-boiled, try this." It was John Sandford's
SUDDEN PREY. It really is a tough book, with some of the most amoral
characters I've read in a while. But although it is written with multiple
viewpoints, essentially it's a police procedural. I'm wondering if there is
an consensus about whether a police procedural can be hard-boiled. One person
has checked in with a resounding yes. Others may think that the story must be
that of a private eye to be hard-boiled. That was the impression I was left
with from reading those long ago messages at the beginning of this discussion

Finally, I can't chime in with anything concerning THE DROWNING POOL. I have
no idea where my paperback copy is. I checked my county library system with
49 libraries and though there are many Macdonald titles, THE DROWNING POOL is
not one of them. I even tried the University Book Store in Seattle, one of
our largest book stores and there was only one title, not POOL. But I'm
certainly enjoying the discussion so far and look forward to joining in on the
next book.

Thanks again for everyone's participation. I'm enjoying this immensely.

Cheers - Frank Denton

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