Re: RARA-AVIS: Race Williams and the KKK

From: George Upper (
Date: 23 May 2001

--- Chris Routledge <> wrote:
> Actually there are pretty good fictionalizations of
> Pinkerton detectives in
> Conan Doyle, so hard-boiled detectives must already
> have had some cultural
> weight - Daly may have popularized the H-B dick in
> the US, but there are
> precedents both fictional and non-fictional.

I have to disagree with this. Conan Doyle never wrote a hard-boiled word in his life of which I am aware. He included some private detectives, but so have many other people--Nick Carter in the U.S., written by a number of people, being probably the best example. However, there's nothing hard-boiled about Nick Carter, either. My argument is that CJD invented the hard-boiled private eye. And, actually, that's not really my argument. Erle Stanley Gardner said it in 1965, and probably earlier (I've never been able to get my hands on his earlier piece, though), and it's been an accepted piece of PI trivia since William F. Nolan re-discovered "Three Gun Terry" (_Black Mask_, Spring of 1923--I can't remember the month off hand) in 1970.

Since then, CJD has been recognized by dozens of critics as the inventor of the genre of hard-boiled fiction with his "The False Burton Combs", _Black Mask_, December 1922, as well as the inventor of the hard-boiled private eye in "Three Gun Terry." I don't know of anyone else who has been seriously put forth as the inventor of the PI sub-genre in the past 30 years.

Although there are certainly ficitonal precedents to Terry Mack, there are no non-fictional precedents of which I am aware. None, that is, that bare any actual resemblance to the hard-boiled characters that CJD wrote about. Of course, there were fictional detectives as far back as Poe, and there were non-fictional PI's in Europe from about 1835 (I know Pinkerton was active in the US during the Civil War, but I'm not sure how long before that we had actual detectives here). But none of these look much like Terry Mack, which is what intrigues me so much. It's as if he took one ingredient each from about a hundred different sources, and came up with something completely new.


===== George C. Upper III UNC-Greensboro
(336) 393-0013 The city don't know that the city is getting... a show with everything but Yul Brynner

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