Re: RARA-AVIS: Cain and Hammett

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 04 Oct 2007

Kerry J. Schooley wrote:

I agree Spade is a hero, but for me (why should it be necessary to add that?) only in a noir world. He is not the Romantic hero that Marlowe is. Might not be the most noir in the genre, might even be more hardboiled than noir, call me wrong (someone usually does) but Maltese Falcon heralds a clear change in detective fiction.

************** I'm onboard for all of this except the requirement of a noir world for Spade to be a hero, but I know where you're coming from. You have mentioned several of the things he did which are immoral. I would add that I don't think his motives are very pure. In evidence of that I would note his answer to Brigid's question about what he would have done if the Falcon had been real. His answer is that he would have recalculated the equation. The equation appeared to me to be oriented more towards what was good for Sam than what right or wrong. Sam is a self-serving pragmatist.

And I also agree that there is a primary difference between Marlowe and Spade. It's not necessary there since of right and wrong, either. Marlowe can be a pig just like Spade. Remember Marlowe getting filthy drunk with some guy's wife in her home and the hubby walks in? Marlowe makes a date to meet her later on. Marlowe can be a major sleaze. If I was looking for some key descriptors, I'd call Sam tough and Marlowe stoic. And I don't mean that they don't share both traits, just that those stand out for the individual.

Well, I think that rather than address what you said I've pretty much just rambled on and on.


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