RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V4 #229

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 22 Apr 2002


Re your comment below:

> And I don't see why it isn't just as much a sign of
> failure of the
> imagination and personal weakness.

I was speaking of murderers in fiction, though in both real life and, very often, in fiction, I agree that murder is a personal failure and a sign of weakness.

In fiction, however, a murderer can be hard-boiled (at least as I've defined it, but if you disagree with that definition, let's save that for another thread) because s/he is physically tough and has a working class ethos. Richard Stark's Parker, for example. On the other hand, I'd venture to guess that Agatha Christie never created a hard-boiled murderer on her toughest day.

My point was that Casper Gutman's willingness to commit murder, betray his colleagues, or shrug off his misfortunes, didn't make him hard-boiled. His being tough, or at least tough-minded, didn't make him hard-boiled either. Neither were any of these things what KEPT him from being hard-boiled. What kept him from being hard-boiled was his studied elegance of manner. It was precisely that kind of studied elegance that Hammett, Chandler, Nebel, and, yes, Daly, all were revolting against when they created the hard-boiled mystery.

> man who is at least
> close enough to being a murderer that he is putting
> his feet up on death
> row at the moment, and believe me this guy is
> neither hard-boiled nor
> strong in any sense: he is a fool and a victim, as
> much as the man he did
> (or didn't) kill. His physical toughness is,
> believe me, irrelevant.

Here I've got to register some disagreement. He may be a fool but, unless he's innocent, he's not nearly as much of a victim as the guy who was murdered.


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