Re: RARA-AVIS: Another Missive from the Fedora Lobby!

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 01 Feb 2000

First of all, wasn't this original posting intended to be somewhat humorous?

Second of all, while I sort of agree that the PI novel should keep up with the times, it's also true that I could care less how "real" private investigators do their work. I'm interested in the story and the hardboiled mood. To the extent that modern PI practices aid the story and the mood, they should be included. To the extent that they detract from the story and mood, they should be departed from.

--- Kevin Burton Smith <> wrote:
> HB detectives don't use cellphones? What crap!
> One of the most unrealistic and annoying trends of
> the entire P.I.
> genre in the last few decades was the pathetic and
> totally
> unrealistic way many writers still try to pretend it
> was 1942, or
> maybe 1953. Finally, it's starting to change.
> Sure, Marlowe didn't use a cell phone. The Op didn't
> pull a mug shot
> off a fax machine. Hammer didn't prowl the on-line
> databases tracing
> down leads. But they all would have, if they could.
> They used the
> technology of their times. For a private
> investigator to not use a
> cellphone during, say, a lengthy stakeout, or
> computers and the
> internet to manage their business and do research in
> this day and
> age, is about as believable as a talking cat
> narrating a murder, or a
> plucky caterer regularly taking on the mob or
> crazed serial killers.

As Vladamir Nabokov (and many others) have pointed out, all fiction is fantasy. In my opinion the goal is not to be "truthful" or "believable" so much as it is to be "persuasive".

> But part of the genre's on-going appeal has always
> been its ability
> to evoke its times, to dig in and peel back the
> cover and let us look
> at the works. But you can't learn much about the
> present if the
> author's denying that it exists.

Yeah, I sort of agree with this, although there are different levels of truth and evocation. In my opinion, for instance, there's a lot of truth in Crumley's LAST GOOD KISS, a book I absolutely love though I admit it's a crazy, exaggerated story in many ways. What's "true" about it, though, are the old painful truths of the human heart.

Just my two cents.



===== Doug Bassett
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