RARA-AVIS: The Red Menace

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 23 Jan 2003

It occurs to me that the Cold War is a frequent theme in '50s hard-boiled crime fiction. Of course, spy stories start to proliferate in the '50s (James Bond and Sam Durrell make their debuts in '54 and '55 respectively, for example), but even in books about characters who aren't espionage professionals, the Red Menace is a frequent theme. Private eye stories like Spillane's ONE LONELY NIGHT or Prather's PATTERN FOR PANIC, for example.

What strikes me as particularly remarkable is that the Cold War seems much more prevalent in '50s HB than WW2 was in '40s crime fiction. When the war impinged, it was usually off-stage. Two of Erle Stanely Garnder's series characters, for example, Donald Lam and small-town DA Doug Selby, both enter the military, but their service in the Armed Forces occurs between books.

Of all the books members mentioned as their favorite
'40s entries, I can't recall that any of them used a wartime plot. And offhand, the only marginally hard-boiled character who we actually see serving in the military is Archie Goodwin, who's an Army officer in three Nero Wolfe short stories.

I'm sure there are others, but they don't occur to me right off-hand.

Perhaps the whole "sub rosa" nature of the Cold War made it a subject that was more amenable to crime plots. Or perhaps it was because, in the US at least, the actual war was happening somewhere else during the
'40s, while (we were told at least) the commies who would end our Way of Life were Right Here in the '50s.



My Mom's surgery had to be postponed. It looks like it will happen this Friday (24 Jan.). You continued prayers are greatly appreciated (my Mom got a kick out of knowing that I'd added Rara-Avis to my prayer network).

Contact me off-list if you want more details.

Thanks to those of you who've sent me messages of support.


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