I actually wrote a paper on that way back when, "From GI to PI: The Post-Vietnam Hard-boiled Detective Novel." I was writing long before Connelly, Burke or Cole were writing and was already finding a number of vets among the wave of new PIs: along with Crumley's Sughrue, Spenser, Peter Israel's BF Cage, Gregory McDonald's Fletch and Timothy Harris's Thomas Kyd were all veterans. The latter says:
"For some reason clients trust inverstigators with war records. They assume you're going to be methodical and tough. I didn't see any reason to tell Joe Eleval that of the four soldiers in the picture, one had as oil-burning junk habit, one had been court martialed for black market activities, another was now in a Mexican jail for drug possession, and the fourth, whose name was Thomas Kyd, had spent a month under psychiatric observation in a military hospital. I didn't tell him that it had taken me over three years to get out of the habit of throwing myself flat on the street when I heard a car backfiring. Was it the picture of me with a crew cut and in officer's uniform that decided him? I'll never know. He frowned at it a long time." There have been many since, including those you note. Wasn't Rob Kanter's Ben Perkins also a vet? Wasn't Mac Bolan a vet, too? Wasn't that where he was when his family was destroyed? And, as you also note, there are a lot of bad guys who got their skills there.
Of course, that's nothing new. I found that PI series writing seemed to have booms after wars, WW I, II and Korea before Vietnam.
World War I
Joseph Shaw in the intro to Hard-boiled Omnibus: "We returned from a five year sojourn abroad during and following the First World War . . ."
World War II
Lew Archer in Doomsters: "ever since the Army, big institutions depressed me: channels, red tape, protocol, buck-passing, hurry up and wait." (Another character in the book was defined by the Korean conflict: "Tom had played his part in the postwar rebellion that turned so many boys against authority.")
And if you're interested in Vietnam noir, you should really check out Robert Stone's excellent Dog Soldiers.
> To: email@example.com
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: Wed, 5 Aug 2009 12:35:08 +0200
> Subject: RARA-AVIS: Vietnam noir
> Still writing about James Crumley, thinking:
> Could one say there is a "new" genre inside the noir genre that could be
> called Vietnam noir, possibly with the word trauma in the middle.
> There seem to be so many detectives (police or private) in (and also
> outside) the American noir and hard-boiled genres who are Vietnam veterans:
> Harry Bosch (Michael Connely), Dave Robicheaux (James Lee Burke), Elvis Cole
> (Robert Crais) and more.. ???
> And C.W. Sughrue (Crumley), as well - and most? In the Sughrue novels
> Vietnam seems to be alive so to speak more than in most other Vietnam
> (trauma) noir, or am I wrong?
> Och then there must be loots of Vietnam vets on the bad side in American
> noir fiction.
> Is it right to talk about noir after Vietnam, did the Vietnam war change
> both noir and hard-boiled crime writing? And what will happen after the Irak
> RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
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