RARA-AVIS: Getting Away with It

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 22 Mar 2001

SPOILER ALERT: Warning, the issue I am discussing/question I am asking deals with the endings of books. So if a book or movie title comes up and you don't want to know it, assume I am going to discuss the ending and look away.

I just finished Lionel White's The Killing (very, very good, by the way) and it made me wonder about endings of caper novels -- when did criminals start "getting away with it" in crime novels?

I know the Motion Picture Code did not allow crime to be glamorized or for criminals to be shown sympathetically (were there successful thieves pre-code, wasn't Raffles a thief, did he get away with it?). The Ratings system loosened things up a bit -- the first successful criminal I remember was Thomas Crown and, of course, all the blaxploitation heroes. I know the TV code did not allow criminals to get away with it until much later -- the first time I saw Altman's Long Goodbye on TV, they ended it with a freezeframe after Marowe pulled his gun, before he blew Terry Lennox away, giving the impression Marlowe might be arresting him.

Anyway, this is a long preface to asking if it was also understood that criminals in paperbacks must pay for their crimes or, at least, not profit from them? The track robbery is successful in The Killing, but there are doublecrosses and falling outs, so no one profits. Earl Drake is caught at the end of Name of the Game and the money burns up at the end of One Endless Hour; the caper in Operation Fireball is for the government, so it's okay in an It Take a Thief kind of way. Westlake has written that he conceived The Hunter as a one-shot at the end of which Parker got his comeuppance. He knew the rules, it didn't even occur to him that his criminal might get away with it until an editor suggested making it a series.

So was this the beginning of getting away with it in books?


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Mar 2001 EST