Definition of hardboiled (was Re: RARA-AVIS: _Murderer's Row_)

William Denton (
Sat, 6 Feb 1999 01:15:58 -0500 (EST) On 4 Feb 1999 wrote:

: Actually, I think those alone *are* what makes a book hardboiled. A
: hardboiled suspense novel is a suspense novel with a tough, colloquial
: attitude.

I disagreee. There's more to hardboiled than an easy, tough attitude, but
I can't think of any rules right now. The earlier points made about
systemic corruption are important, although any list of requirements would
have to be allowed to fit loosely.

Someone recommended a Nelson DeMille book, _Plum Island_, to me a few
months ago. The hero was a tough slang-using, beer-drinking, woman-chasing
cop who was taking some time off work because of an injury. He got mixed
up in some biological warfare shenanigans, or something. I'll never know
because I couldn't get past page 50. It was awful. One of the things
that annoyed me was that DeMille was using all the surface aspects of a
hardboiled character without really understanding what it was really all
about. The rest of the book was just a standard, modern, bad,
cut-and-paste thriller.

How would you define a noir novel, as opposed to a hardboiled one? How do
things like _The Talented Mr. Ripley_ and _I Was Dora Suarez_ fit your

Some other folks on the list must have thoughts about definitions. We've
been talking about them for two years, and it can't be as simple as "tough
and colloquial."


William Denton                       <URL:>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada             Caveat lector.

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