RARA-AVIS: Re: Trigger City by Sean Chercover

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 02 Sep 2009

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    Re this specific element in your generally postive comments on TRIGGER CITY:

    ". . . even though this is stylistically hardboiled PI, it has transitioned to mystery-thriller hybrid where the big question is how is the the PI going to keep himself and others alive."

    I'm a little puzzled as to why you regard this as such a major transition in the hard-boiled PI tradition. PI stories have never been intrinsically about "whodunit" per se, in the same sense that this is true of the traditional, or "cozy," mystery, but about "the hero's adventure in the search for hidden truth."

    Emphasis on "adventure!" In other words, it's always been about action more than about cerebration.

    What were BLOOD MONEY, RED HARVEST, and THE DAIN CURSE but a story in which the big question was how was the Continental Op going to keep himself and others alive?

    What were the Mike Hammer novels but stories about how Hammer was going to keep himself and Velda and occasionally others alive?

    What were the stories and novels about Race Williams and Three-Gun Terry Mack by the originator of the hard-boiled private eye, Carroll John Daly, other than stories about how Race/Terry was going to keep himself and others alive?

    The puzzle aspect has always been there, but it has never been a crucial element. There've been hundreds of private eye stories in which the villain was known from the start. Indeed, the "inverted story," as it's sometimes called, has been around longer than the hard-boiled PI story (see the short story collection THE SINGING BONE by R. Austin Freeman; and check out the roughly contemporaneous-with-the-development-of-the-PI "Department of Dead End" stories by Roy Vickers).

    I'm wondering why you find this such a major evolution.



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