RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V5 #85

From: Jess Nevins ( jjnevins@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 11 Mar 2003

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 15:09:12 -0500 From: William Harker Subject: RARA-AVIS: Burns and the Evolution of the Detective

> 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?

Tell me, does Hunt talk about dime novel detectives? Because there were plenty of those who were "generally flawed" and "at odds with established police organization," and the American public was reading about them and enjoying their exploits decades before Spade, Marlowe, and Archer.


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