Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled Character Traits

From: Jess Nevins (
Date: 01 May 2002

Anthony Dauer wrote:

> He accepts a pay check just like every other private eye in the genre,
> except for some occasions and for the same reason that any trench-coated
> PI of the classic era would. Need outweighing the necessity of payment.

He never *needs* to accept a paycheck. He does so to amuse himself.

> Again it boils down to time and culture. You're not going to have a
> lower class Victorian opening up a detective agency.

No--lower class Victorians went into the police force, where they were markedly more hard-boiled than, say, Holmes. See Tom Fox and Waters. Hell, see Dick Donovan.

> Nor is Holmes
> obviously upper middle class. He lives in modest rooms that if anything
> evidence a modest financial reserve.

There's never any need for Holmes to accept money, though, and I'd say his habits--the lab, the housekeeper, the cocaine--weren't modest.

> His brother's position is one of
> acquired position through superior ability, not necessarily or obviously
> a position of nepotism or birthright. There's plenty of examples of
> Holmes working the streets, dressing the part, walking the walk and
> talking the talk.

As a pretender--as an outsider. When the job's done he retreats to his cozy room and loses himself in drugs or violin or writing monographs, which is quite a distance from Fox et al.

I'll concede the other points, but I still maintain that if Holmes is hardboiled, than Fox et al are something else entirely.


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