Re: RARA-AVIS: Artifice, tradition, and all that jazz.

From: Kerry Schooley (
Date: 24 Feb 2003

At 08:07 PM 23/02/2003 -0800, you wrote:
>Re your comments below:
> > Funny, but I've never equated "cozy" with
> > "traditional" (that was you Jim,
> > I think.) Maybe I'm not adequately acquainted with
> > their contemporaries,
> > but I felt Doyle very different from Christie. I
> > always thought Holmes
> > appeal lay more with a popular fascination with
> > science, more like the
> > later procedurals (though Holmes was not a cop, of
> > course) and the current
> > forensics formulas. Poirot applied his "little grey
> > cells" too, of course,
> > but more toward the behaviour of the upper classes
> > than the tracks they
> > left about.
>The only time Holmes ever really used scietific
>detection was in the first story, A STUDY IN SCARLET,
>when he a Watson are introduced just as Holmes has
>discovered a formula for detecting whether or not a
>bloodstain in human or animal. And that experiment
>never had anything to do with the main plot.

Yes, but much is made of that magnifying glass and the deliberate gathering of little bits of evidence that most readers wouldn't notice. Reason and science were closely associated in the popular mind, I'm guessing.

>The "Big Three" of the Cozy, Christie, Sayers, and
>Marsh, perhaps EXAGGERATED the traditions of Holmes,
>but it seems quite clear to me that they, and the
>other "traditionalists" of the Golden Age were
>following that tradition.

I'm sure they did. You've made good points. But I still suggest that cozies, have their own, separate place in the mystery tradition. I associate the term with the almost claustrophobic containment of place: on trans-continental trains, aboard ships, in mansion drawing rooms etc. and the cozy little groups of people who inhabited them.

What I'd call the "traditional" Holmes was more likely to ankle about more, and had other elements that the cozies did not incorporate quite so readily. As pointed out elsewhere, Holmes was addicted to drugs, and there was often a suggestion of behind-the-scenes familiarity with unregulated street life. Holmes was a professional sleuth too, IIRC, hired for his skills.

I'm suggesting that both cozy and hardboil were both developments of an earlier, traditional school, each addressing specific requirements of their different cultures.

To digress again, maybe back to earlier and other discussions, I like your subtle difference between the fantasy of cozies and the reality of hardboil, one with crime an aberration in the natural order of things, the other with human nature so criminal that order must be imposed. But the second, hardboiled idea suggests it is possible to impose order. Noir would suggest that is also a fantasy, no?

Best Kerry

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