Re: RARA-AVIS: Theme of the Month: Work

Date: 13 Apr 2001

>Why did all those tough dicks work so cheap when
>they kept getting hit on the head?
By gad, sir, that's an interesting question. To which some cynical answers could be given, I suppose, although not by me because I'm trying to give it up.

Money - just working for the money - is buying in to the kind of society that Hammett and co. despised. A vast proportion of the villains (no, I haven't counted) are rich men. These detectives are of the people: workers not capitalists, victims not victimizers.

Money corrupts. The essence of these tough dicks is a kind of sometimes-involuntary (if that makes any sense) incorruptibility. So work done for some kind of moral imperative is 'pure'.

>He pities and scorns people who go to dull jobs to pay for
>their dull lives in dull plastic modern society. Those are the same
>people that would read about him.

The readers might be forced to pursue their "dull jobs", but they too dream of not having to work just for money. The "American dream" is relevant to this. Catch me on a bad day, and I will talk at great, great length about the varieties of wish-fullfilment which underpin crime fiction generally. (Think of Raffles, by the way. Think of Ripley.)
(Buy me many drinks and I will continue to discuss traditional/cosy detection, sf, romance, the Western, etc etc etc, at boring length, deep into the night.)

One of my favourite relevant heroes, who always casts light on this sub-genre for me despite the fact that he rode a horse, is Shane, who was working for his keep.


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