Re: RARA-AVIS: Marlowe and Spade and the ladies

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 31 Aug 2001

I pulled out my copy of Rayond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, in which a bunch of contemporary PI writers each wrote a short story featuring Marlowe. Each is followed by a brief afterward about what the author owes Chandler in his/her own writing. I opened it to Paretsky's thoughts, from which Kevin recently cited her views on Chandler's women.

However, in the previous paragraph she wrote:

"It's hard to describe the influence Chandler had on my own work. I think all modern PI writers create very much in his image, far more so than in Hammett's. It was Chandler who really framed the relationship of the PI to justice, law and society, and my detective, V.I. Warshawski, certainly operates according to the values Chandler outlined in 'The Simple Art of Murder.'"

It seems to me that this is, indeed, borne out in her books, and those of many of the other contemporary female PI writers. So might this be the answer to the question of where the contemporary heroic PIs are? Could Warshawski and her sisters be more faithful to the Chandler tradition than most of their male counterparts?

To be honest, I haven't thought about this enough to decide whether or not even I believe it, but I thought I'd throw the idea out for discussion.

And I agree with Carries that Crais is one of the more traditionally heroic of the male PIs. And although Elvis Cole was certainly conceived in Spenser's shadow, I'd say the Jimminy Crickett influence makes him even more of a gee-whiz shining knight, sometimes almost cloyingly so, especially in the early books. This is not a criticism, well not much of one, I really, really like the Elvis Cole series.

I saw the latest book by Crais in a bookstore the other day. I thought he was going back to Cole after one non-series book. Guess not. Anyone know if his next one will return to the series, or is he having the same problem deciding where to go after the turning point of LA Requiem that Block did after Eight Million Ways to Die?


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