RARA-AVIS: Re: can noir writers advocate social reform?

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 29 Nov 2006


Re your question below:

"Who in Hammett does good deeds? Everyone I can think of was just doing his job -- sure, some good might come from it, but it was for a paycheck, not for goodness sake."

The Continental Op is certainly more concerned with doing the job than doing the right thing, but he's concerned with doing the job BECAUSE he thinks it's the right thing. Like Matt Helm, he's an idealistic pragmatist.

As for when the Op does good deeds, which I interpret to mean acts of compassion that he does for compassionate, rather than practical, reasons, two come to mind immediately.

In "The Scorched Face," the Op convinces his cop buddy, rookie SFPD Detective Pat Reddy, to burn all the blackmail material they've uncovered. Reddy, being kind of a straight-arrow, baulks at destroying evidence, but finally lets the Op convince him. It turns out that one of the photos is of Reddy's wife, and the Op was trying to preserve the happiness of the newlywed couple.

In THE DAIN CURSE, the Op cures Gabrielle of drug addiction, not because he really needs to in order to do his job, but only because he's come to care for her.

That's just off the top of my head, but I'd be surprised if there aren't other examples.


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