Re: RARA-AVIS: Sensitive detectives

Bob Toomey (
Wed, 01 Dec 1999 02:57:07 -0500

Doug Bassett wrote:

> Why, though, is the "sensitive" detective so
> popular now?

Sensitive times, sensitive guys. Tough times, tough guys. Naw, too simplistic. How about this? Women like sensitive guys and men can tolerate them up to a point, as long as they're not crybabies, so you expand your market by appealing to both. Naw, too cynical. Just say it's the search for variations on Chandler and Hammett, the archetypes. Phillip Marlowe had his sensitive moments, maybe even a bit oversensitive in "The Long Goodbye," and the Continental Op was looking distinctly soft by "The Dain Curse." Some of the followers tilt that way, some tilt more to the wisenheimer side.

Mostly they do Chandler because he's easier to imitate and carries a literary cachet. Hammet is harder to follow. Hammett had been there. Eventually he forgot that and wrote "The Thin Man." This is the one that got copied, spawning an entire subgenre of screwball married couples tripping over corpses between the martinis. Nobody's even come close to doing Sam Spade.

No, blame Chandler: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean." Hear that often enough and all the meanness can just leak right out of a guy, and the next thing you know she's sleuthing for an enviornmental group or attending AA meetings and studying feng shui. Hell, maybe it is the times.


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