RARA-AVIS: Burns and the Evolution of the Detective

From: William Harker ( wharker@earthlink.net)
Date: 10 Mar 2003

I have received a book by William R. Hunt entitled _William J. Burns & The Detective Profession 1880-1930. In the book's final chapter, he makes the following argument statement

"Fixing the influence of anyone's career on as mirky a field as literary creation is a risky enterprise that is outside my bounds. It could be argued, however, that Burns' dubious acts and fall from grace were more important in fixing the place of the private detective in literature than his much-praised exploits. the detectives in thousands of novels since the time of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are generally flawed and at odds with established police organization...

He argues that without Burns' fall from grace, the public would not have been as willing to accept "flawed" detectives such as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, or Lew Archer. "Sophistication had reached a general level of acceptance of a hero or, sometimes, anti-hero, who walked the seamy side of life, yet produced adventurous, satisfying results."

Can anyone tell me of a fuller treatment of this argument?

Bill Harker wharker@earthlink.net

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