Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V4 #235

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 24 Apr 2002

Sorry to butt in.

--- M Blumenthal <> wrote:
> Jim,
> I'm making some progress. Now you concede hard
> boiled is not solely
> language. You hadn't done that earlier. I'll now
> have to get you to concede
> that being born wealthy and/or having a good
> education does not preclude a
> character from being hard boiled. There is free
> will . People can have
> their situation change either by their own volition
> or because
> circumstances change. A few examples of characters
> in the best 111 who
> ostensibly do not meet all your criteria are Richard
> Bone, (Cutter and
> certainly Mo also would fall under this category,
> but they didn't make the
> cut.) Bruce Wayne, James Figueroas, Milo
> Milodragovitch and C W Sugrue
> (Crumley, who I always considered a writer of hard
> boiled fiction, can't
> restrain himself from having his two protagonists
> sometimes write some very
> lyrical passages)

I don't think being rich or educated precludes a character from being hardboiled, but I do think a hardboiled novel needs at least a sense of the class strata -- from high to low. Ross Macdonald seems the obvious example.

Haven't encountered all of the characters you mention above. Crumley's books are determinedly fixated on lowlifes of various stripes. Bruce Wayne is rich, but that's not the interest of the stories so much as a necessary plot device. He fights crime out in the trenches, as it were. (Check out Frank Miller's BATMAN: YEAR ONE.)

> An assassin like James Bond you say is not hard
> boiled.

I like the Bond books very much, but they really seem to me to have more in common with a kind of British Adventure Fiction that streches all the way back to Talbot Mundy, H. Rider Haggard, etc., as well as hero pulps in general. Can't remember if it's in the movie, but in the book DOCTOR NO Bond ends up fighting a big octopus, for instance, which sounds like something right out of Doc Savage. That link someone provided was very informative on this point.

A much better example along the Bond lines is Adam Hall's/Elleston Trevor's Quiller series. I simply can't say enough about these books -- IMHO they supersede the Matt Helm novels, and indeed are as good as "adventurous" spy fiction gets.


===== Doug Bassett

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