Re: RARA-AVIS: Last of the Mohicans

From: Jess Nevins (
Date: 29 May 2007

-----Original Message-----
>From: Michael Robison <>
>I've been looking back at the roots of the hardboiled
>genre in America, Ring Lardner, Twain, Bret Harte, and
>London. It was only a matter of time before I made it
>to Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. There might be
>earlier American works that foreshadow the hardboiled
>genre, but I haven't found it yet.

>soul being a stoic killer. The quote was inspired by
>Cooper's writing. Cooper's style was overwrought and
>his technical expertise questionable, but he
>established a model for a tough American character
>that still survives today.

I think Twain said it well: "'Deerslayer' is just simply a literary delirium tremens."

Cooper's counterpart, and another influence on the American hardboiled tradition, is Robert Montgomery Bird's "Nick of the Woods" (1837). "Nick," which has never gone out of print, was very popular for many years in the 19th century--at least the equal of "Last of the Mohicans." Bird wrote it as a response to what he saw as the radically pro- native message of Cooper's fiction. The main character is Nathan Slaughter, who after the death of his family during a Shawnee attack becomes the Indian Killer "Nick of the Woods."

If Hawkeye was the proto-Marlowe, Nick is the proto-Mike Hammer: just as hard, just as unbalanced, just as merciless. They were both influential as opposing character types in the magazine fiction of the 19th century, which is another major influence on hardboiled fiction of the 20th.


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