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

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@total.net)
Thu, 15 Jan 1998 21:50:52 -0400 Power's off, power's on, and I'm back.

>What Constitutes Hard-Boiled?

Good question, and quite a can of worms. Hardboiled's probably more a feel
than anything. But, while everyone seems to agree about what hardboiled
isn't (sorry, Agatha, maybe if Miss Marple starts packing heat), I find it
a bit hard to agree with some people's choices of what is.

In my opinion, good hardboiled does deal in toughness, but of character and
attitude more than anything. Violence and atrocities and sex aren't
necessarily hardboiled, although they can be. It's sorta like the
difference between pornography and erotica, if you will. A lot of the
current atrocity-riddled serial killer and police procedural books, and
even Miller's endless, over-rated Sin City series, may get your rocks off,
but they belong in Penthouse Form.

Just my opinion, but just look at the blurbs from so-called critics. It
seems all you need is a bit of violence and sex, and maybe a private
detective, and suddenly all the old buzzwords, like hardboiled, Marlowe,
Hammett, Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, MacDonald, Macdonald, tough, gritty, noir,
Bogart, etc., etc. are trotted out.

I mean, you can have flour, eggs, chocolate chips, vanilla, sugar and all
that, but it doesn't mean you have choclate chip cookies (from The Martha
Stewart Book of Cooking and Crime Fiction Criticism).

And while I agree Ross Macdonald's work is overated, I also feel much of
his work is hardboiled. They may also verge on some weird southern
California Gothic vibe at times, but Archer's hollow toughness and the
familial, political and environmental corruption that he must wade through
definitely puts him in hardboiled territory. I seem to remember The Chill
as being one of his best books, as far as meeting the "criteria" of this

But, hey, different strokes for different folks, and so on and so on, and
scooby dooby dooby....

>A few years ago (c. 1991) Penguin published a comic-book version of TS
>'The Wasteland.' A strange enough choice for a comic book, but even stranger
>was that it had been made into a hard-boiled narrative complete with a PI
>called Marlow (or Marlowe). Did anyone else on the list ever read this,
>or is
>my memory playing extremely unkind tricks on me?

No, Stephen, your memory is behaving. In fact I've got a copy somewhere,
but I don't think I ever finished it. Too many of the literary in-jokes
went whizzing over my head, as I recall.

>I'm reading Foul Shot by Doug Hornig (1984), and parts of it are . . .
>twitching my itch. Can anybody tell me about the author? What else has
>he written? He's not a member of Private Eye Writers of America. Thanks.

Fred, he wrote at least three books featuring private eye Loren Swift (is
that his name?) and at least one short story in AHMM (or was it EQ?) that I
really liked, which dealt with the then new technology of digital tampering
of photographs. Of course, now that every graphic designer seems to have a
Mac and a copy of PhotoShop, it's all rather dated, but at the time I was
blown away. I met Hornig at my one Bouchercon and may have even cadged a
drink off him, while embarrassing myself by gushing about how much I liked
the story.

Oh, and merci beaucoup, Synefrog, pour votre mots gentils.

Kevin Smith
Web Guy for The Thrilling Detective Web Site
For info, mailto:kvnsmith@total.net

"Well, I'll have some rotten nights after I've sent you over/But that'll
- Seeing the Real You at Last (Bob Dylan, via Dashiell Hammett)

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