Re: RARA-AVIS: women PIs/fantasy worlds

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 21 Aug 2001

Mario wrote:

"Sughrue? Milodragovich? Dave Brandstetter? Amos Walker? Nameless? Marshall Tanner? Stefanos? Clete Purcell? Kearny and associates?

"None of these guys strikes me as particularly heroic... most of them are tough, but they are not admirable people or idealistic people."

While I'll grant you that none of the above is particularly idealistic, I'm not so ready to buy that none is admirable. Putting aside Clete, Crumley's heroes and, maybe, Nick, the rest are professionals in the best sense of that word. They have such a strong work effort that their identities and self-worth are nearly completely tied to their jobs, usually to the great detriment of any personal life.

And while anti-heroes may be far more prevelant these days (although the Parker series is 40 years old), it is nothing new. I'll leave aside the ends-justifies-the-means attitude of Race Williams or Mike Hammer; I can see how some might find them heroic in the traditional sense. I think most would agree that Marlowe pretty much embodied the admirable and idealistic side PI hero, but there has always been an alternative. For instance, Sam Spade was pretty much amoral. He was screwing his partner's wife. He was more than ready to set up a, relative, innocent
(Wilmer) for murder. And even if you believe Spade was not sincere about that frame-up, was just turning everyone against each other, Spade was not surprised, even expected it to provoke him to murder (again Wilmer). Finally, Spade was so defined by his job that he sent the woman he loved up the river, not because it was the right thing to do, but because it would have been bad for business if he didn't. How admirable or idealistic was that?


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