Re: RARA-AVIS: My Alleged Gender Bigotry

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 26 Aug 2001

I agree with Mario and Doug that Colin's summary of the amoral PI probably applies far more to Spade than Marlowe. If getting paid alone were an indication of lack of morality, remember, priests and ministers get paid (and child molester stereotypes of crime fiction, aside, I'm willing to believe most probably strive to be as moral as a frail human sinner can be).

However, Doug brings up an interesting question about whether or not hardboiled is as "fake" as any other genre. I'm with him in thinking it is. Otherwise, why would it have to be remade so regularly?

In the beginning, Hammett gave murder back to those who did it for a reason. This break was with the cozy. However, there have been numerous breaks within hardboiled, as each new generation claims the genre's mainstream has become just as bourgeois as the cozy, all about returning order to society. So Spillane brings new levels of sex and violence. Later Ellroy brings new levels of violence and amorality to the hero. And on and on. Ultimately, though, they are simply coming up with new conventions of realism to replace the old. The core remains much the same. The breaks seem to always be on the same axes of sex and violence and seem to have more to do with its presentation than with its real place in the real world.

We are reading a fictional genre, not true crime (not claiming that the literature of true crime is not a genre of its own).


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