From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 07 Feb 2000

Hi! Obviously I know nothing about this book, and to tell you the truth I'm not really sure if I understand what you're saying here, but this passage did catch my eye and got me to thinking. Here's a couple of ideas: whether you agree or disagree I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

There's actually two versions of the "hardboiled outlook". The first is the one you seem to be describing below, which I would rephrase as "the world sucks but I am pure. I can lead you through it." This is the "Chandler" outlook and it's very famous. Most people, when they think about hardboiled fiction, are thinking about stuff like this.

The second one is "the world sucks and I am part of its awfulness. I can take you on a tour through it." To make things easy, call this the "Thompson" outlook.
(The protagonists of most of Thompson's books are sociopaths of one sort or another.) It's a difficult outlook to pull off -- when it doesn't work you get something like a travelogue, a picture of a grimy subculture that might be interesting but never really involves you. (I think a lot of Iceberg Slim's stuff falls into this catagory.) When it does work, though, some very strange things start to happen. You start having empathetic responses to characters who, if they actually existed, you'd be repulsed or horrified by. Try Thompson's KILLER INSIDE ME or POP. 1280 or Goodis's STREET OF NO RETURN for examples of this.

So I don't think it's always necessary for a hb book to provide a moral quotient. "Morality" implies
"judgement" and there's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes a writer wants you instead to understand.

Just my thoughts.


--- wrote:

> In my own little "hard-boiled" definition this sect
> of mystery fiction is
> indeed always full of corruption but must have at
> least one player whose
> travel through the story lends a "moral quotient".
> If that's not there then I
> think the book has little or nothing to add to
> hard-boiled. Face it, this
> male dominated part of Mystery can piss off Miss
> Marple most of the time with
> it's treatment of the Femme. So what I do read I
> want to be good.


===== Doug Bassett
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