Detectives - the dominant characters of the 20th Century Discuss

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Warehouse Operative
Ellroy on Hammett;

Dashiell Hammett was allegedly offered five Gs to perform a contract hit. It is most likely a mythic premise. He was a Pinkerton operative at the time. A stooge for Anaconda Copper made the offer. The intended victim was a union organiser. The stooge had every reason to believe Hammett would take the job - post-first-world-war Pinkertons were a goon squad paranoically fearful of all perceived reds. Hammett's mythic refusal is a primer on situational ethics. He knew it was wrong and didn't do it. He stayed with an organisation that in part suppressed dissent and entertained murderous offers on occasion. He stayed because he loved the work and figured he could chart a moral course through it. He was right and wrong. That disjuncture is the great theme of his work.

It explains why Hammett's vision is more complex than that of his near-contemporary Raymond Chandler. Chandler wrote the man he wanted to be - gallant and with a lively satirist's wit. Hammett wrote the man he feared he might be - tenuous and sceptical in all human dealings, corruptible and addicted to violent intrigue. He stayed on the job. The job defined him. His job description was in some part "Oppression". That made him in large part a fascist tool. He knew it. He later embraced Marxist thought as a rightwing toady and used leftist dialectic for ironic definition. Detective work both fuelled and countermanded his chaotic moral state and gave him something consistently engaging to do.

"Hammett views politics as crime most cancerous and genteel. It's crime buttressed by unspoken sanction. It's crime facilitated by a callous legal system. It's crime enforced by vicious cops in hobnailed boots. Hammett treats politics-as-crime in deadpan fashion. He assumes that the reader knows this: politics is The Manoeuvre as public spectacle and reverential shuck. That means America was a land grab. That means all political discourse is disingenuous. That means his workmen heroes refuse to soliloquise or indict - they know the game is rigged and they're feeding off scraps of trickle-down graft."
 

woops

is not like other people
It's not exactly detective fiction but I've got 4 books in 1 volume by Horace McCoy. I've read 2 They shoot horses dont they which is famous and kiss tomorrow goodbye both very good nihilistic cold hearted stuff in the vein of the best private eye writing @IdleRich @william_kent got two left which im looking forward, to them both.
 

william_kent

Well-known member
It's not exactly detective fiction but I've got 4 books in 1 volume by Horace McCoy. I've read 2 They shoot horses dont they which is famous and kiss tomorrow goodbye both very good nihilistic cold hearted stuff in the vein of the best private eye writing @IdleRich @william_kent got two left which im looking forward, to them both.

I've only read "They Shoot Horses" and that was a long time ago, but seem to remember really enjoying it - who would expect that a dance contest could turn so ugly?
 

forclosure

Well-known member
One thing that's occurred to me reading Ellroy recently is the importance of time to the detective.
The detective must always arrive late. The whole thing hinges on their being a step behind and working backward, from effect to cause. The story moves further back as it moves further forward.

It alters the violence of something like an Ellroy too as although they're violent books, a lot of the violence is arrived at after the fact rather than witnessed. It's the base rather than something that's built toward. That's partly why it's easier to argue Ellroy's a moralist than someone like Bret Easton Ellis is: the violence is comparable, but Ellroy spills outward from it whilst Ellis spirals inward.
he's a moralist but he's also full of shit lol

you ever watch that documentary on him Feast of Death? that shit is as unintentionally funny as Some Kind of Monster it sets out to portray him as morally transgressive,obsessive but insightful figure tortured by his mother's death but it makes the "demon dog" look like this sad shrived weirdo with members of the LAPD fawning over him and giving him Jack Webb's badge.

He does his big intro on his wikipedia that he does at book signings and talks about how his fans are out there living wild lives slangin dick but they all look like the kind of people who get kicked off backgammon forums for being racist. Getting Christoper Biggins level giddy every time he drops another slur about negros and fruits.

I've read a few of his books and i get why alot of socialists/leftists types despite hating his politics like his books cause his cynicism towards politics, the police and celebrity is similiar to theirs just maybe not as over the top.

He's "shocking" but he's a very 90s kinda shocking if that makes sense, this is why you don't trust people who give themselves nicknames .
 

forclosure

Well-known member
on that note any of you lot here read the Martin Beck books? Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo husband and wife duo who started the whole Scandi crime ting

 

forclosure

Well-known member
Any recommendations for grimy ‘70s UK pulp detective books, pref. set in London? Guess I’m thinking of something like Mickey Spillane/Jim Thompson/ Chester Himes meets ‘Minder’, in a New English Library style. Feels like there should be a few, but I’ve never come across them.

I read a couple of the ‘80s Derek Raymond books like “The Devil’s Home On Leave” but they were more police/murder squad detective than individual, hard-boozing sleuth. That sort of thing would be good, but also up for over-the-top punch-ups, shooters, pickaxe handles, psychotic northerners, hard-faced brass, narks, people lighting fags every 45 seconds, etc.
GBH by Ted Lewis
 

forclosure

Well-known member
Tried em but found a bit slow and dull
see i like them in part because of how it develops from a standard murder mystery thing to this overall critique of the Swedish system at that time and where it was rapidly heading.

me personally i found the pacing fine, they're are deliberate but it comes off more immersive and atmospheric than other detective books which go by quickly
 

version

Warehouse Operative
he's a moralist but he's also full of shit lol

you ever watch that documentary on him Feast of Death? that shit is as unintentionally funny as Some Kind of Monster it sets out to portray him as morally transgressive,obsessive but insightful figure tortured by his mother's death but it makes the "demon dog" look like this sad shrived weirdo with members of the LAPD fawning over him and giving him Jack Webb's badge.

He does his big intro on his wikipedia that he does at book signings and talks about how his fans are out there living wild lives slangin dick but they all look like the kind of people who get kicked off backgammon forums for being racist. Getting Christoper Biggins level giddy every time he drops another slur about negros and fruits.

I've read a few of his books and i get why alot of socialists/leftists types despite hating his politics like his books cause his cynicism towards politics, the police and celebrity is similiar to theirs just maybe not as over the top.

He's "shocking" but he's a very 90s kinda shocking if that makes sense, this is why you don't trust people who give themselves nicknames .
I like the books, but find his act embarrassing. Those old late night talk show appearances are like someone's obnoxious uncle was booked by mistake.
 

luka

Well-known member
im not going to watch it cos i love the books. dont read them on public transport though in case someone looks over my shoulder and thinks im reading some sort of nazi pulp fiction
 

woops

is not like other people
he doesn't come across as badly as they're all making out however his reading voice is a piss take
 
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