Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V4 #231

From: Cinefrog (
Date: 23 Apr 2002

on 4/23/02 16:32, JIM DOHERTY at wrote:

> Mark,
>> By this definition, James Bond is not hardboiled
>> because he speaks well.
> I never said he was hard-boiled. I personally don't
> think he is. He is, partiuclarly as Fleming
> originally wrote him, an upper-class British snob.
> Fleming, for that matter, was an upper-class British
> snob. Look at his reaction when he first learned that
> Sean Connery (an enlisted man in the Navy, of all
> things!) had been cast as Bond. He thought Connery
> wasn't enough of a gentleman. He came around later
> on, true, and even made Bond part Scottish (something
> never mentioned before THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN,
> Fleming's only post-movie Bond novel) in deference to
> Connery's background, but originally he was very upset
> because Connery wasn't elegant enough. Was (dare I say
> it?) too colloquial.
>> And what about Hannibal Lecter? He's downright
>> eloquent in his speech.
> Again, although I think the books he appears in are
> hard-boiled, or at least that an argument can be made
> that they are hard-boiled, Lector himself is not.
> Elegance is probably as close to an absolutely
> disqualifying characteristic as there is.
>> There also seems to be a class bias here. Upper
>> class cannot be
>> hardboiled?
> I wouldn't want to close out the upper classes
> absolutely, but generally I think that's true.
> Hard-boiled crime fiction is the fiction of the
> working class. Cozy or traditional crime fiction is
> the fiction of the upper class. That's not bias,
> because I'm not saying one is better than the other.
> I'm only pointing out the obvious differences.
> Hercule Poirot is not the same sort of character as
> Sam Spade. They are both good, valid characters, but
> they don't spring from the same tradition.
>> What about Jason Starr's upwardly mobile characters?
>> They seem pretty
>> damned hardboiled to me in the way they pursue their
>> goals; does their
>> speaking well rule them out? I haven't read McCoy's
>> Kiss Tomorrow
>> Goodbye yet, but isn't the main character a
>> well-educated, son of
>> privilege? I'm guessing he speaks well, too.
> I haven't read Jason Starr (I thought he was a
> crippled PI character in the DC Comics universe; who
> am I thinking of?). I've only read McCoy's pulp
> stuff. The characters in stories like "The Mopper-Up"
> were definitely "regular guy" working men.
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It is positively not elements such as 'elegance' or 'language' that are going to help you towards some 'definition' of "hard boiled"...there are much wider characteristics/markers that should be used when tackling something as difficult as a litterary genre like that...same problem comes when one pushes the door towards Film Noir...and, in fact, the two (hard boiled and Film Noir) are very much linked in my mind and in many critics minds too...(reading about that helps, I think)...and I strongly approve of Jim's assesment that tradition/litterary origin of a character is part of his/her hardboileness...

it's not only the words you say, but also the way you say them and in what context... it's not only the clothes you wear, but the way you wear them and in which situation... in orthers words it's extremely contextual and, although some overall characteristics and characters can be agreed upon...the debate is sometimes very animated when 'definition time' comes around...

...for example, I would positively agree that Bond is not HB...but I would consider some of the scenes in the train of "From Russia with Love" (those with Robert Shaw) as HB...but there are only a few scenes that qualify here...and because Bond is a mean Sam Spade type for a short while...

Steve N.

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