Re: RARA-AVIS: Third person hardboiled

pabergin (
Sun, 25 Apr 1999 15:39:55 -0400 I have the feeling that a lot of people tend to think of hardboiled as
finding its best expressions via first person narration because the Holy
Trinity of the genre (Hammett, Chandler and MacDonald) chose to write much
(in McD's case ALL) of their best-read work in the first person. I think a
lot of folks just got used to it and came to expect it.

Bad mistake. It is possible that a persuasive arguement could be made that
not only is there a lot of good third person HB out there, but in terms of
truly important work, there may actually be more done in the third person
than in the first.

The Maltese Falcon has already been mentioned, but The Glass Key, in my
opinion Hammett's greatest achievement, is also 3P. Many of Chandler's short
stories, including two -- Pickup on Noon Street and The King in Yellow --
that I consider better than most of his later work, were 3P.

A lot of the sadly underappreciated Merle Costiner's pulp work was also 3P,
as was much of Horace McCoy's work. All four of Willeford's Hoke Moseley
novels were 3P. And then there's Jim Thompson.

When it comes to living writers except Jim Hall (who's already been
mentioned), Bill Pronzini's two most accomplished novels -- Blue Lonesome
and A Wasteland of Strangers -- are 3P. So is Les Standiford's John Deal
series, Joe Gores' DKA File series, and the Gabriel du Pre novels (Montana
hardboiled?) by Peter Bowen. This is just off the top of my head; if I cared
to take the time to root around the shelves, I've no doubt I could come up
with other examples of important 3P hardboiled.

First person narration has been an effective device in some hardboiled work,
and it has become something of a convention when it comes to the straight PI
yarn, but to view it as a hardboiled credential is limiting and demonstably
Paul Bergin

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at