Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Book review in Journal of Social History

Date: 09 Apr 2004


Re your comment below:

> Sure, that's one reason, same as for swashbucklers
> and romances and epic
> fantasy. But the hardboiled stuff is especially
> concerned with behaving
> morally--walking the mean streets and all that.
> We've talked about that
> here before and how readers pattern themselves on
> heroes like Marlowe or
> Travis McGee, not just in their imagination, but in
> real life. It's still
> like that: George Pelecanos's books are about males
> working at being men,
> having jobs, supporting families, staying clean,
> learning lessons like how
> "last man standing, wins" cuts two ways. Plus,
> there are gunfights and
> lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll,

A lot of hard-boiled stuff is about behaving morally and honorably. Certainly that's true of Chandler. But a lot isn't. Do you really regard that towering testament to violence and selfishness, Richard Stark's Parker, to be a paragon of moral virtue?

By the same token, to say that the Parker novels are not hard-boiled would be as absurd as saying that Parker is a moral role model.

That's just one example. How about Lou Ford in Jim Thompson's novels, or Keller in Lawrence Block's short stories? They're fundamentally immoral men who perform fundamentally immoral acts, but they're no less hard-boiled for their lack of morality.

Behaving honorably and making moral choices is not a required ingredient of hard-boiled crime fiction, nor, for that matter, is it limited to hard-boiled crime fiction.


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