RE: RARA-AVIS: What Constitutes Hard-Boiled?

Andy Hughes (
Thu, 15 Jan 1998 10:05:46 -0500 Frank raised the question of John Sandford's PREY series. Although I
would agree with others who have suggested possible hard-boiled police
procedurals, I don't think Sandford's books qualify. (I do, however,
recommend them highly, particularly the first, RULES OF PREY, and the
other early ones.) Sandford's main character, Lucas Davenport, does not
lead the isolated, loner life that characterizes most HB protagonists.
In fact, he actively seeks community through a variety of groups.
Second, if the PREY books are procedurals, they belong to a sub-genre I
loosely refer to as psychological serial killer thrillers. Sandford and
Ridley Pearson, in my opinion, are probably the two best authors
currently working this beat.It's not HB, but it's definitely worthwhile.

>From: Frank Denton[]
>Sent: Thursday, January 15, 1998 1:47 AM
>To: Rara Avis Hardboiled
>Subject: RARA-AVIS: What Constitutes Hard-Boiled?
>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
>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
>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
>be much easier if the archives were in the digest form so one could retrieve
>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
>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
>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
>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
>has checked in with a resounding yes. Others may think that the story must
>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
>next book.
>Thanks again for everyone's participation. I'm enjoying this immensely.
>Cheers - Frank Denton
># To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
># The web pages for the list are at
# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at