Re: RARA-AVIS: Dumb Question by a Non-Hard-Boiled Reader

Etienne Borgers (
Mon, 6 Dec 1999 02:31:58 -0800 (PST)

As I'm not too sure to get to the heart of your real question, you stop me if I'm wrong...

Humor,nonsense,tongue in cheek... texts to make you laugh, smile or grind your teeth exists IMO in all the
"detective" genres (or sub-genres). The funny part is
(if I may say so) that black humor is certainly the most common for any of these, and you could find some in the traditional British detective fiction, as in some parodies of whodunits...etc. And certainly in the Hard-Boiled genre, but here it does not have to be a parody of itself to allow for black humor: It can be really destructive, corrosive, surrealist, cold as death. A lot of examples exist to document this.

So finally, your approach about social rules and consensus is probably the best "tester". Traditional detection will always accept the social rules as they are, and the villains are the only one breaking them... and being punished. Murder there does not trouble the social consensus, neither do the protagonists try to change it.

Hard-Boiled, and Noir, show mostly protagonists AND villains marginal to the law or to the social order. Even both outside the law. Villains not only break the written laws but also the
"natural moral law", protagonists do not much praise the social order or justice system if it generates corruption or if it becomes a legal parody... etc Punishment could happen for both villains and protagonists: by fate, by law or by individual fights.

So I think that you still will find different ways to laugh, and different "targets" to laugh at, when the
"comic novel" is of hard-boiled essence or when it is a traditional one.

In other words, I think you have no choice but to split your "comic" category between traditional and HB...

This helps?

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries http://www./

--- Sharon Villines <> wrote:
> > [snip]....Tony Soprano, with a hung dog
> > look, lamented the fact that an attempt had been
> made on his life by
> > "...two guys with 9mm's. My self esteem is at an
> all time low". Life,
> > for a modern Mafia family, is definitely getting
> more complicated.

> This is likely to be a dumb question but it is
> important. I'm working on a
> classification system for detective fiction--not
> with an attempt to classify
> ALL titles but with an attempt to classify
> quintessential examples of
> various types. At the moment I'm working with three
> attitudes or world views
> that influence each of the sub-genres:
> --traditional or classic which assumes a benevolent
> social order,
> --hard-boiled or mean streets which assumes a
> predatory social order
> --comic, which assumes a nonsensical social order
> I would expect a description like the one above to
> indicate a comic world
> view. As readers of hard-boiled detective fiction,
> what do you think?
> Sharon.
> --
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