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

Date: 24 Apr 2002


Re your comment below:

> Perhaps rather than colloquialism as a defining
> characteristic, it's just
> that every so often you have to be a smartass.
> Maybe it's the sarcastic, cutting response to
> threats, violence, etc., that
> is the defining verbal characteristic of
> hard-boiled.
> Add in some street-wise toughness, and, voila,
> hard-boiled :-).

You're close, but not every hard-boiled character is a smart-ass who wields a sharp wit with rapier-like acumen. On the other hand, Sherlock Holmes could be bitingly sarcastic and smart-ass (witness his face-to-face with Prof. Moriarty in "The Final Problem").

Street wisdom, in the context of hard-boiled crime fiction, is exhibited partly by action ("tough") and partly by language ("colloquial"). Occasionally, perhaps even usually, the colloquial language is combined with a sardonic wit, but that's not always the case.

> I think cozies are more designed to be humorous. If
> you read some of
> Charlotte Macleod's early books, the killer usually
> turns out to be
> some respectible character who has a long-history of
> murder, fraud, and
> mayhem in their past. This is not reassuring.

Not all cozies are humorous. Not all hard-boiled stories are urgently dramatic. What distiguishes hard-boiled is a tough direct way of acting, "tough" to sum it up in a single word, and a tough, vernacular use of language, which might be called "colloquial."


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