RARA-AVIS: RE: The Popularity of the Private Investigator

From: Dick Lochte ( dlochte@gmail.com)
Date: 19 Feb 2006

Sounding the knell for any genre is usually a premature gesture. The western is passé µntil an extraordinary series like Deadwood comes along to show how much life there is left in the old wild west.

Channing is right about modern audiences looking for something new and different, but this could still be a private eye novel. There are a couple dozen newer writers of PI tales, some good, some bad. Depending on their sales (OR the authors' friendship with his or her editor), they may have long careers or be gone tomorrow. The heroes may be traditional (though probably not big fans of trenchcoats or rye whiskey) or fantasy figures
(dinosaurs, vampires). Their novels may not even be considered mysteries. Try Robert Littell's Legends, which is ostensibly a spy novel, even though its protag is a former spy turned private eye.

As for real private eyes vs. fictional -- the real ones were never very romantic figures, not even back when Black Mask was in flower. The jobs that made up most of their business then were not that different from the work they do now, except for divorce, which has slacked off. That's been replaced by investigations initiated by law firms or by businesses concerned with industrial spying.

Channing asks when the last time was that anybody saw a real private investigator on the news. Here in Southern California it's nearly every night. There's a PI named Pelecanos who was a celebrity sleuth and is being tried for various illegal acts, notably threats issued against reporters, wiretaps and, as I recall, illegal weaponry. According to last night's news, Sylvester Stallone has been added to the witness list (as a victim, I believe).

My guess is that we may be seeing a fictional private eye or two on TV in the near future. He may behave a little more like Angel Martin than Jim Rockford, but it's the thought that counts.

Dick Lochte

----------------------------------------------------------- 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.

The idea of hiring a private dick to find the missing heiress is quaint and the modern audience craves something juicier.

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

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?

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 19 Feb 2006 EST