Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V5 #33 - Noir

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 22 Feb 2003

Jim wrote:

"Since it was so obviously different from what had gone before, they had to be aware that this was a break from the artificial style that had been the pattern of the traditional mystery, . . ."

Okay, I know this is the party line of hardboiled. I've said it enough times myself. But I have to wonder if the cozy really is any more
"artificial" than most hardboiled?

Even Chandler himself admitted of his essay "The Simple Art of Murder":

". . . but you must not take a polemic piece of writing like my own article from the Atlantic too literally. I could have written a piece of propaganda in favor of the English detective story just as easily. All polemic writing is over-stated. The instant you admit that both sides in a controversy may be right, you have thrown away your whole argument . . ." (from Raymond Chandler Speaking)

I'm not even hinting that hardboiled and the cozy are the same thing (or that cozies aren't by their nature inferior to hardboiled, at least according to my taste), but I'm not sure that most hardboiled literature is any more natural, no matter how much more naturalistic it purports to be. (And much of it isn't even that naturalistic, not that that's necessarily a bad thing -- Latimer, anyone?) It is a genre (or Jim would probably say, not wrongly, a group of genres) and as such, it has certain requirements which have more to do with telling a good story than with telling a natural one. Of course, some of the best do both.


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