RARA-AVIS: Spenser Hardboiled?

Gerald So (gso@optonline.net)
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 09:22:11 -0500

Hello, all.

    Brian Lawrence asked whether Spenser would be considered hardboiled. I think the definition of hardboiled has to change slightly along with changing detectives. At heart, though, "hardboiled" remains a prevailing urge toward cynicism, suspicion, doubt, fear, and violence. Given my working definition, I'd say the early Spenser books--pre-Susan, pre-Hawk--are more hardboiled than Parker's subsequent books.
   For most of the 80s and 90s, Spenser and Hawk have been more caricatures of hardboiled than actually hardboiled. It's as if Parker really wants us to believe they haven't lost their hard edges, but often in trying to drive his point home, he proves the opposite.
   On the other hand, if a detective keeps up the tough-as-nails, heart-of-stone attitude too long, he labels himself an anachronism. Amos Walker is a good example of this, but more on him next month.


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