RARA-AVIS: Is Marlowe a real pro?

M-T (matrxtech@sprintmail.com)
Thu, 28 Jan 1999 22:23:44 -0500 The current discussion of pros and cons started me thinking of the
classic PIs and their various levels professionalism. As Kevin noted,
Lew Archer is a consummate professional who keeps the cards close to his
vest, knows how to deal with the powerful, and knows all the tricks of
his trade. Similarly, Howard Browne's Paul Pine and Thomas Dewey's Mac
are highly professional and really good detectives. Going back in time,
Hammett's Continental Op was also a pro.

On rereading Chandler's stories in The Simple Art of Murder, I notice
that Marlowe (Dalmas) is mostly following hunches and often doesn't know
how to take care of himself. The beatings he takes and the traps he
walks into wouldn't happen nearly as often to a professional, who would
simply not stick his nose in certain places without preparation and some
backup. Is this dangerous tendency to improvise part of Marlowe's
magical charm as a character?

Something else also struck me: Walter Mosley did not make Easy Rawlins a
real detective but a street-savvy guy who gets into scrapes and is
forced to investigate. This gives Mosley a lot of flexibility and
Rawlins plenty of opportunities to get into trouble without appearing to
be inept - he is only an ordinary guy, not a pro. With the obvious
differences, Rawlins is closer in character to Marlowe than to any other
"investigator" I can think of; and Mosley's plots, like Chandler's, are
not neat and perfect, since Rawlins follows his intuition, not

Just some rambling thoughts.


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