Re: RARA-AVIS: Theme of the month - Los Angeles

Date: 07 Sep 2001

Jim Blue,

Re your comments below:
> If that were the true test Jim, I'm not certain
> Marlowe or Lew Archer
> would make the cut. Marlowe certainly didn't see
> himself as "Blue Collar,"
> only as his own man. It would also be difficult to
> include guys like Spenser
> and Elvis Cole in the hard-boiled group, though I'm
> not sure how hard I want
> to argue for their HB credentials.
> It's a marvelous old chestnut of a discussion, "What
> and Who are
> hard-boiled?" and we've done it many times here, but
> it's tough for me to buy
> working class as a deal breaker for membership in
> the club.

Marlowe once said he never married because he didn't like policemen's wives. Therefore, he thought of himself as a cop. And police work was at the time
(and to a degree still is) seen as a blue collar occupation.

Same with Lew Archer.

In any case, I'm talking about an attitude here, not a background. Phil Marlowe, Lew Archer, Joe Friday, Steve Carella, Matt Helm, etc. etc., etc., see themselves as fairly ordinary guys who are good at their jobs.

Holmes sees himself as an extraordinary man, a creature of pure intellect. And the exaltation of pure intellect puts his stories squarely in the
"classic tradition" of mystery fiction. It was Holmes and, to an even greater degree, his ilk (Philo Vance, Hercule Poirot, Roderick Alleyn, etc., etc. etc.) that the original hardboiled writers were reacting to. They weren't following the Holmes tradition. They were breaking away from it. I love the Homes stories, but to somehow twist things around so that Holmes is included in the hard-boiled tradition is to misread both the Homes stories and the hard-boiled tradition. Are the Holmes stories any less entertaining, or well-written, or important to the history of crime fiction for NOT being hard-boiled? Of course not. Must a mystery be hard-boiled before we can admit to liking, on its own merits, and on its own terms? Surely not.

As for my definition, which is to say "tough and colloquial," excluding to many obivously hard-boiled characters, that's the first time that particular criticism has been leveled at my definition. Usually I'm told that it's far too broad and expansive. It would certainly include Spenser and Cole.


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