Re: RARA-AVIS: colloquial and hardboiled

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 23 Apr 2002

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> Jack,
> Re your comment below:
> > Hardboiled has to do with attitude and
> > follow-through--not with diction.
> Toughness is expressed by follow-through. Attitude
> by
> diction. If you don't believe mem check out a dandy
> private eye novel called THE BIG SWITCH and see if
> it
> doesn't.

Wanted to say that I agree with Mr. Doherty. It seems to me there ought to be a distinction between "tough" and "hardboiled". Well, there needn't be, I guess, but if you don't make the distinction "hardboiled" doesn't end up meaning much.

The example I always use is James Jones. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and THIN RED LINE are genuinely tough books, but I don't think they're *hardboiled*. They just don't have the "feel" of a hardboiled novel, a kind of beat down sensibility.

Yes, "hardboiled" is attitude (a sort of beat-down realism) paired with a tough, stripped down, cynical language that reflects it. No, Bond isn't hardboiled. Neither is Thomas Harris/Hannibal Lecter. While I don't think a hardboiled protagonist *necessarily* must be from the lower class, I think a sense of the lower class is necessary. The hardboiled novel generally spans classes; it's part of the appeal.

All of this obviously doesn't make Bond or Lecter or whatever counter-example anyone wants to cite bad -- not everything that's good has to be hardboiled, for Pete's sake. And if people don't want to think in these terms that's fine, too. It hardly is a deciding factor on the most important question, whether THE MALTESE FALCON is a good book or not.


===== Doug Bassett

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