Re: RARA-AVIS: Harry O & Rockford: Literary Influences Coming and Going

From: Miles Archer (
Date: 23 Aug 2003

on 8/22/03 1:48 PM, Kevin Burton Smith at wrote:
> How much influence did both series had on private eye literature? And
> vice versa?

I join Kevin in bemoaning the disappearance of Harry O...a fine series, most of the time.

Certainly Rockford 'lightened' the PI genre--there wasn't a lot of violence
(and by then Garner was too busted up to engage in that sort of thing), there was a _lot_ of comic relief (Rocky, Angel, et al). The whole set up was ridiculous from the outset--felons can't get a PI license in California, so Rockford was an impossibility, from that stand point.

I think the reading audience became conditioned to less noir and hard-boiled detectives and hooked on the lightweight types, both TV and lit. (And opened the door to women as characters and authors, since the story lines didn't have to be as violent as before.)

_Popular_ (ie, the stuff that sells) PI fiction today generally strikes me as diluted and tentative. Take Parker--he always has some peripheral thug to do the dirty work and save his ass. He whines about being away from his girl constantly. Oh please, what hard-ass PI is lonely for Mommy all the time?

Now I know there are plenty of tough PI stories being written (just visit The Thrilling Detective), so what I'm saying is, naturally, a gross oversimplification. But I can think of more examples of what I mean, should anyone feel they need them. (Patterson's 'detective' is a freakin' shrink!)

I like my PIs reasonably realistic, tough as nails, smarter than the bad guys, and a stand up guy (or gal.) I've known some Op-types and I can say one thing about them all: they're people you can rely on to do what they say. Damn few contemporary fictional detectives measure up by today's standards of 'tough'. (Hoo-Ahh.)

Murder She Wrote and Prescription:Murder...don't get me started!


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