Re: RARA-AVIS: Professionals and Amateurs

Date: 07 Feb 2000

    Jim Blue asserts that "the world of hard-boiled 'needs' a largely independent protagonist whose principle strengths are courage, a strong code that he/she lives by, wits and resourcefulness . . ." I don't think I can argue with that on its face. However, I don't agree with the
*implication*, if not the explicit statement, that such a hero must be free from any institutional constraints or loyalties. The Op works for a large, world-wide detective agency. The boys of the 87th for the NYPD (sort of). Matt Helm for US Counter-Intelligence. I could go on. I might prefer to say that the hero should be independent *minded*, rather than wholly autonomous.

    Jim goes on to say "that the more 'scientific' professional crime fighting becomes, the further it moves away from the hard boiled world." Here I think I have to fundamentally disagree. The very first Op story (or at least one of the first) was "Slippery Fingers," which revolved around the camparatively new crime-fighting technology of finger-printing. To the degree that the polce procedural is included in the HB universe, and the general consensus on this list seems to be that it is, most police procedural writers have tended to present scientific crime-fighting in some detail. Real-life LAPD crime lab tech Ray Pinker was a semi-regular on
*Dragnet*. Capt. Sam Grossman, commander of the Crime Lab, fills a similar role in the 87th Precinct series. In Lawrence Treat's police novels and stories, lab cop Jub Freeman often carries the ball as the hero. It's worth noting that Treat, often listed as the creator of the procedural school, was a pulpster in the days when the HB mystery was being defined.

    On the private side, it could be argued that *Barnaby Jones* was not exactly HB, but certainly his *modus operandi*, the operation of a private crime lab, could have been presented with the toughness, terseness, and colloquialism which is really all that is required for entree to the "HB World."

    Other examples: the film *The Kid Glove Killer* featuring Van Heflin as tough police lab cammander who solves a political murder (Fred Zinneman's first film).

    *Dead Man* by Joe Gores, featuring an extraordinarily tough PI who specializes in computer investigations.

    *Deceit and Deadly Lies* an Edgar-winner for Best PBO novel by Franklin Bandy, deaturing a PI who specializes in a the use of a new kind of lie-detector called the Psychological Stress Evaluator. For all the technological details, the hero is tough, cool, independent, and hard-edged. I don't think the novel deserved its Edgar, to be frank. But it certainly stands firmly in the HB world.

    I don't want to belabor the point, which is simply this. A protagonist can be tough and colloquial, can prowl the "Mean Streets" with the best of them, and his use of the technological aids available to him doesn't make him or her any less HB.


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