RARA-AVIS: Re: The Marlowe Paradigm

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 04 Dec 2002

>In the wake of Marlowe, virtually all fictional PIs
>would be:
>1) Male
>2) American
>3) 30 to 40 years old (at least when the series
>4) Unmarried (usually single, often divorced,
>occasionally widowed, but virtually always unmarried)
>5) Ex-cops
>6) Who operated a one-man agency
>7) Located in a large US city
>8) Who told their stories in the first person.

You might also add a tendency to crack wise and a love for outrageous similes and metaphors.

But I digress...

Ayway most fictional P.I.s met those conditions even way before Marlowe came along. The only ones Chandler may have really had a part in were 5, 6 and 8. And 1,3 and 4 are pretty much common in ANY heroic fiction, be it Zorro, Sherlock Holmer, Robin Hood, Batman, The Lone Ranger or Conan the Barbarian.

What Chandler did do, as Bill pointed out, was popularize these traits, and lock his vision of the private eye in the public's mind, for better or worse. But in the last twenty or thirty years it's been quite exciting and even, yes, thrilling, to see how many writers are willing to tinker with almost all of these characteristics. Only 3 and 4 seem to remain certainties these days, among the more imaginative writers. And 2 and 7 generally apply only to American writers.

By the way, you guys are all invited over to my site to cast your votes for the 2002 CHEAP THRILL AWARDS for the best and worst in P.I. fiction for this year. Which includes any book you read this year, which means all those classics from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s count too. And I've got some copies of Elmore Leonard's latest, WHEN THE WOMEN COME OUT TO DANCE

Evidently ranting and raving does have its privileges.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com -- # To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to # majordomo@icomm.ca. This will not work for the digest version. # The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

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