RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled/Classic

Sharon Villines (sharonvillines@prodigy.net)
Tue, 30 Nov 1999 13:22:28 -0500

>> One more question, and I'll shut up for a while. Does hardboiled have
>> to be a PI story?
> No.
> Hardboiled was a form of fiction being written nearly 75 years ago.

These are distinctions I have been struggling with in the MacGuffin. Where I am with it at the moment is that most detective fiction falls into two categories which are really attitudes:

Classic or Traditional-- The social system is orderly and benevolent and crime is the result of a violation of or a break down in accepted codes of behavior. The good guys are inside the social system.

Hardboiled or Mean Streets-- The social system is corrupt and untrustworthy. Crime is the rule. The good guys are the ones who are outside the social system.

These attitudes were clearer in the detective fiction written before--when? The 1960s, 1970s?--but I think they still exist.

A PI or an amateur sleuth or a law enforcement officer can portrayed in either subgenre.

Unfortunately, Classic has come to be viewed as equal to the cute cozies and Hardboiled, to "action", car chases and physical injury.

If Hardboiled is limited to those works written in a specific time period, what would you use to describe a contemporary book with the same attitude?


Sharon Villines, Editor
MacGuffin Guide to Detective Fiction

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