RARA-AVIS: Death to Watson!

Jason M Boog (jboog@umich.edu)
Mon, 26 Apr 1999 19:07:33 -0400 (EDT) Christopher Bahn wrote:
Someone else mentioned "Glass Key" and "Maltese Falcon" as 3rd-person
narratives. A question, though - while the stories aren't told by the
protagonists themselves, my impression is that you never get to see
anything they don't.

This is why I started thinking about the whole question of the 1st person
narrator. Unlike Holmes or Dupin, the private dick puts us in the middle
of the mystery, rather than sitting like Watson in the dark and in awe of
Holmes' method, revealed after the mystery is over. That puts the action
in your lap, moves it out of "stuffy drawing rooms" that Chandler talked
about in the "Simple Art of Murder."
And the first person perspective (or the 'Maltese Falcon' 3rd person where
we only see what Spade sees) forces us to organize (I think) more than
discover meaning (like a Watson-reader).
So in 'Killer Inside Me,' the first person lets us think the way his
crazy cop narrator does, just like we follow Marlowe's ethics. But nobody
ever mentions the detective perspective and first-person switch, or at
least I haven't read too much that talks about it.
Does that make any sense, or am I looking in the wrong place? I think
hardboiled style might depend on it. Maybe's it's hard to think of
examples of omniscient third person narrators because its important to be
immersed in a hardboiled setting and to see it from the perspective of the
hardboiled hero.
Thanks for listening. I've just started thinking about it, so disagree
with me, please!
Jason Boog

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