As has been mentioned, Parker popularized the amoral/immoral sidekick
that does the violent acts that give the more upright knight pause. And
since Spenser/Hawk, it's become a genre standard. A few that come to
Mosley's Easy Rawlins/Mouse
Burke's Robicheaux/Clete Purcell
Lehane's Kenzie & Gennaro/Bubba
Block's Scudder/Mick Ballou
Some point out that Ralph Dennis's Hardman series introduced the
moral/psycho zebra pairing before Hawk entered the Spenser series (I
forget, in which book did Hawk first appear?), but from the too few
Hardman books I've read as they crumbled in my hands, I never got a real
sense of a moral dichotomy between them. They were just buddies and
partners, and neither is above some illegal gains. I don't see a moral
divide in Lansdale's Hap and Leonard either. Sure, Leonard can go a bit
around the bend with a gas can, but it was to burn down a drug dealer's
Then there is Crais's Joe Pike. Can be far more lethal and expedient
than Elvis Cole, specially in the earlier books where he's more of a
cipher, but there is never any hint of immorality. In fact, most of his
kicking ass seems to come from a moral certainty. Of course, Hawk has
his code, too, bringing it full circle.
Benjamin Schutz did some interesting things with his Leo Haggerty/Arnie
Kendall, asking some of the hard questions raised by being an accomplice
in some of the acts.
Could all of this hark back to the western? The gunfighter had frontier
skills that were useful to society, but kept him from actually becoming
part of that society after he had vanquished the threat to civilization.
Remember John Wayne outside the door at the end of The Searchers? So in
the above pairings, the sidekick remains always on the outside while the
PI has pretensions of being a part of the society? Easy Rawlins is
certainly trying to firm up his position in society.
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