Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Blue Collars

From: George Upper (
Date: 09 Sep 2001

Kevin Burton Smith <> wrote:
> 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.

I think much (note that I am not saying *all*, so please don't jump on me with exceptions) detective fiction involves class-crossing, so to speak. The PI invited up to the millionaire's mansion a la Marlowe and Sternwood has been repeated by most writers in the genre, hack or not, to some degree (one of the good early Parker's in my opinion, is THE JUDAS GOAT, in which Spenser does just this).

I would argue that this is skillful use of a western cultural icon, the grail knight. I don't know if this has ever been written on (detective as knight certainly has, I know, but detective as grail knight I'm not sure) anywhere, but a grail knight essentially comes into a situation in which a leader--like General Sternwood--has become injured and lost power, often the power to reproduce. The situation has therefore become stagnant, requiring someone from outside to bring fresh energy into the closed system and thus providing renewal. Thus, the HB detective's traditional position as "outsider" makes him perfect for the task.


===== George C. Upper III, Editor The Lightning Bell Poetry Journal

__________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Get email alerts & NEW webcam video instant messaging with Yahoo! Messenger

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 09 Sep 2001 EDT