Re: RARA-AVIS: greatest noir or detective protags

From: Patrick King (
Date: 05 Aug 2009

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    None of these books, to my mind, has much to do with the slangy, tough, somewhat amoral, usually urban American world of the hardboiled tradition as conventionally understood.


    My premise is that these books were an inspiration for the works we now consider to be "hardboiled." There is nothing "amoral" about Sam Spade (and he points this out to Brigid O'Shaughnessy in his last talk with her), Phillip Marlow, Mike Hammer, Lew Archer or any of the other HB detectives. They give the impression occasionally of being amoral to lure in the villains, but they are all firmly on the side of "right."

    Not so with PI, Jeff Bailey in Out of the Past. Jeff is continually in trouble because he does what he wants to do, not what he's contracted to do. He knows when he goes to Mexico that Kathy Moffat is a dishonest woman, but he falls for her anyway. He is completely amoral and untrustworthy. That is why Out of the Past is noir, while The Maltese Falcon is hardboiled.

    Patrick King


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