Re: Hardboiled vs. other (was Re: RARA-AVIS: The Dain Curse-why ...)

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 15 Sep 2000

On 15 September 2000, David Lane wrote:

Take out the gunplay, slow down the pace by telling the story in third person and there is surprisingly little difference between hardboiled and other forms of crime fiction.

Bill responded:

Surely not, unless you boil it down to "a crime was committed (and perhaps solved)."

I've got to go with Bill on this one. For one thing, they are set in completely different worlds. The traditional whodunit is set in a contained world where the murder is an aberation. When the murder is solved, society as a whole is made clean again. Society is never clean in hardboiled, which paints it as thoroughly corrupt, the murder just an extension of the accepted cutthroat mindset.

They even have different conventions when it comes to plot. Although they both revolve around murder, with its gimmicks like locked rooms and its contained sets (country manors, trains, etc), the trad mysteries are as much howdunnit as whodunnit. Hardboiled is as much whydunnit as whodunnit.

Also, as numerous have noted since its inception, hardboiled draws as much, if not more, from the western hero as it does from Poirot or Wimsey.


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