RARA-AVIS: Re: Blue Collars

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 08 Sep 2001

Jim originally wrote:

>It implies a certain "blue-collar" ethos...

But a lot of folks seemed to have missed his point, so he tried again.

>I'm talking about an attitude here, not a background.

Yes. The thread was wandering off into the hills for a while there, but I think you're on to something good.

There is that common man vibe in most hard-boiled detectives. Even Hammett's (and later, Hollywood's) Nick Charles, who had scads of dough, thanks to Nora, definitely had that common man thing going.

And Chandler, as usual, had something to say about it in The Simple Art of Murder: "He is a common man or he could not go among common people."

On another list, there's been much discussion lately about class in mysteries, and I think that's one of the appeals of good hard-boiled detective and crime novels -- the ability for the protagonist to move from class to class, be it, for example, Marlowe asking questions in a "shine' bar or sweating like a pig in General Sternwood's hothouse, but always remaining his own man.

Holmes, for all his rough edges, never really struck me as a common man. He always seemed rather aloof and smug to me, condescending even, closer to Poirot than Marlowe.

A rough litmus test for a hard-boiled detective -- could you see yourself having a beer and shooting the shit with the guy or not?

FEARSOME PREDICTION: Someone will say, "Hey! Unmistakably hard-boiled so-and-so doesn't drink beer..."

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