Re: Hardboiled Holmes (was Re: RARA-AVIS: Digest V3 #867)

From: Chris Routledge (
Date: 08 Sep 2001

At 03:58 PM 9/7/01 EDT, you wrote:
>To be a bit finickety a lot of Holmes is Edwardian.

Yes, very finickety. Study in Scarlet was written in 1887 (can't get higher Victorian than that), but Valley of Fear is 1915, so Holmes as Modernist anyone? Defining by writers by dates is no more useful than defining them by (naturalised) nationality. It's just one factor.

>Not sure that Holmes
>believed that his world was correctable - he always seemed fairly accepting
>of this, see the opium den in "the Man with the twisted lip"

I'll give you this, but I still think the overall tone of the stories (if not Holmes in all cases) is a Victorian one of redemption and choice. You can condemn (and punish) someone far more strongly if you believe they have chosen to do something. Unemployed? Lazy, right? The problem is, writers change their ideas as they go on. So Greene isn't hard-boiled in the sense of say, Hammett, but was aware of what was going on and could be hard-boiled in his own way. Seems strange to me that a group of people interested in popular fiction should be so bothered about making categories so rigidly. I thought that was for Harold Bloom and pals. I reckon it's quite interesting to find hard-boiled elements where you wouldn't expect them. So Hamlet, well, he's not *so* far from Phil Marlowe, if we leave out the family troubles.


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