From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 14 Feb 2000

> It got me wondering how many hard-boiled writers had been in
>combat. Of course, in the fifties, nine out of ten males over maybe
>thirty had been in the army. I was just curious if it
>was known of how many, specifically, wrote as a way of adjusting to civilian

I'm sure everyone, not just men in their thirties, was trying to deal with the fallout from the war. But nine out of ten? That's just gotta be wrong. That seems way too high, especially if you mean Americans. I'd double check those figures. Nine out of ten? I mean, the U.S. only officially entered WWII after Pearl Harbour, which was in December 1941, right? And didn't they enter WWI rather late, as well?
(Not that it really matters-anyone in their thirties in the fifties couldn't have served in WWI). And, of course, you mean the all branches of the military, not just the army, right?

Think about it. If nine out of ten were in the army, that leaves only one out of every ten men who didn't serve (or were not allowed to serve) because of mental or physical health, race, personal beliefs, sexual orientation, occupation, marital or familial status, college enrollment, prison or criminal record, politics, family connections,AWOL, etc., etc.

And, of course, being in the army doesn't automatically mean you were in combat. I know Chandler actually was, in WWI (saw action in the mud'n'blood trenches in France with the Canadian army) and Ross Macdonald served in the Navy in the Pacific in WWII, I believe. But Hammett, whose RED HARVEST was full of dead bodies, spent almost all of his WWI army career in a hospital bed about fifteen miles from home, and WWII writing a base newspaper. And trigger-happy Spillane, who wanted to paint the steps of the Kremilin with blood, never saw action at all. He served his stint in the Air Force in WWII as a flight instructor in Mississippi.

Of course, just because they never saw action doesn't necessarily mean much. War is so handy for creating a self-serving myth--look how far it got Hemingway...

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ Now: The last few days to vote for The Thrillies. Soon: The P.I. Poll on Short Fiction, plus new stuff of our own.

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