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

Date: 23 Feb 2003


Re your question below:

> I must admit that as much of a caper fan as I am, I
> can't remember
> reading any amateur criminal stories. I'm guessing
> this would apply to
> a character like Rafferty (would Cary Grant's
> gentleman thief in To
> Catch a Thief be a distant relation?). I'm curious,
> what's their stated
> motive for stealing (if they even bother giving
> one)? Is it just an
> adventure, a form of slumming? A patrician puzzle
> to outwit the
> authorities? Stealing from the bad to right a
> wrong? A Robin Hood kind
> of thing? Is there a recommended book of this sort?
> I think it'd be
> amusing to compare it to Parker or Earl Drake.

I think the character you may be thinking of is
"Raffles," not Rafferty, and, yes, Cary Grant's "Cat" character was very similar. They were "gentlemen thieves," but their stated purpose was to make money
(in a way they found enjoyable, to be sure, but to make money), so they were, in fact, professional criminals.

My point about amateur criminals is that, more often than not, in the traditional cozy, the murderer (whose identity is concealed) turns out to be someone who is neither an habitual criminal nor someone who committed the murder for financial gain. There are professional criminals in traditional mysteries (i.e Professor Moriarty), but they are comparatively rare.

Amateur criminals are certainly present in hard-boiled mysteries, also. But it is in hard-boiled mysteries that you are most likely to meet professional hit men, organized crime figures, armed robbers, drug pushers, enemy spies, etc. And the people opposing them are more likely to be cops, professional PIs, or secret agents. The hard-boiled world is a world of pros.


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