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

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 19 Feb 2006

At 06:11 PM 18/02/2006 -0500, you wrote:

>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.

Suppose we take bounty hunter as the current embodiment of PI, then DAWG, or whatever that "reality" thingee is on A&E. Puts a doubly (if not more) ironic spin on the notion of reality vs. the PI myth, anyway, and also brings the PI to an ignoble end, dependent upon government law-enforcement agencies for his living, a sort of free-lance copper with one employer. Mind you, like a lot of "reality" TV, there's a lot to be disappointed with. All like watching a train wreck.

Come to think, I believe many of the A&E crime documentaries now and then mention PIs in small, disappointing roles, but I could be wrong. I find it hard to give them my full attention, once the train leaves the tracks. Just going by general impression.

>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.

Real PIs are now security guards, patrolling gated communities or corporations (assuming "private" means not working for a public agency) which I guess is your point- that's what they always did. Still, you'd think there'd be plenty of room to popularize and mythologize this occupation, especially given current public paranoia. There's the dick who comes to learn the awful truth by working within the corp., for instance. Would Michael Blair's "Hard Winter Rain", with corporate chauffeur/body guard Joe Schumacher leading the investigation, qualify as a PI story, or amateur detective?

>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.

I'm with you on that. But didn't Stansberry write the Noir Manifesto, calling for a new direction because the genre is largely retreading the over-worn carcass of the old mythology?

I thought Bill would mention this, but since he hasn't: Jos頌atour launches "Havana Best Friends" at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel next Wed., 7:00 p.m., joining in a discussion with Peter Robinson and a book signing by both authors. All this plus music, and free.

That suggests a trend I may be missing - please let me know if that's the case - because Latour is living in Toronto now. A market has developed in Canadian literature for books and stories by "new Canadians," relating the experiences of first and second generation immigrants in their current and former homes. Has the PI mythology been exploited to explore any of these tales?

Best, Kerry

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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