Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: The popularity of the Private Investigator

Date: 18 Feb 2006

Channing wrote:

"I think the days of the trench-coated gumshoe myth has finally come to an end. He had a great run of 50+ years but I think modern audiences are looking for something new and different. The Real Modern P.I. is more of a computer geek who does most of his leg work in front of a computer keyboard. His main source of income is divorce cases and insurance fraud, not very sexy or exciting."

While allowing that your main point may be regrettably true, you're mixing myth and reality here. Yes, that's what the Real Modern PI does, but isn't divorce work also what the Real Oldtime PI did (albeit sans computers)? Was reality ever what PI readers were looking for? At least by book sales, Mike Hammer was probably the most popular PI of all time -- I doubt anyone ever mistook Hammer for a real person (or wanted him to be more human).

"That's why I think more violent occupations have become the modern fad for books and TV shows."

There have been a number of recent attempts at PI shows, but you're right, they haven't been very popular. Even Veronica Mars (great show) gets far less than stellar ratings.

"The myth of the P.I. was replaced by the myth of the sexy superspy in the 60's, which in turn has been replaced by the myth of the Serial Killer Profiler."

Or forensics expert (or both), at least on TV.

"Cops and lawyers are real. We see them on the news and on talk shows all the time. But when was the last time anybody saw a real Private Investigator on the news?"

During the Michael Jackson trial.

But were real PIs ever on the news, other than maybe the Pinkertons, and most of the news they made was for strikebusting, wasn't it? Hardly the makings of the mythic PI.

While we like to think hardboiled is more realistic than more cozy genres (highly debatable), I for one want myth as much as reality in my PI novels. I do require a certain verisimilitude, but that has as much, if not more, to do with internal consistency than it has to do with external validity.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Feb 2006 EST