Detectives - the dominant characters of the 20th Century Discuss

IdleRich

IdleRich
I meant modern and/or post-modern. It's probably equally true of different types of detective fiction but as those categories were invented more for TV listings than as an academic tool for understanding culture in the 20th and 21st centuries it's not such a surprise or problem that their definitions may lack academic rigour and precision.
 

version

Well-known member
I don't know what would make Ballard a modernist; more emphasis on man and science than God? The period he was writing in? The latter seems the most reliable indicator for the reasons described previously re: writers writing about the world around them, but then Ballard was at his peak in the 70s when postmodernism was supposed to have taken over, Crash was published the same year as Gravity's Rainbow.
 

jenks

thread death
The entirety of detectivist culture and certain story telling traditions in early historical sources have parallels. @jenks Gawain being a proto-gumshoe of the wasteland?

The Mabinogian and The Cattle Raid of Cooley exist almost as distilled surrealism. Their story tellers never allow you to figure out the plot because arcs and real lives were underpinned by geasa, taboos or prohibitions that are positioned as impossible to avoid. So, you know the fates are fucked, that one disaster will beget another. The craft in the Mabinogian and Táin is the play in their revealing, their allusion to dreams as divination portholes (Sopranos), transformations (Mr Benn), where the past has as much agency over the present as any detectorist has digging

The detective is how, why, who, when and where
I think if Gawain is a detective then he’s very much in the mould of the set up detective where he becomes the fall guy. After all the quest he goes on ends with him avoiding sleeping with the femme fatale and then being made to kneel and wait literary for an execution which is called off right at the last moment. I suppose there are Chandler parallels there.
I think medieval (and earlier) quest stories fit with this idea of knowledge revealed in a nicely ordered universe where things eventually make sense once the journey has been completed. Isn’t that part of the detective’s appeal - life isn’t random, justice can’t be had, evil doesn’t go unpunished and equilibrium restored.
I don’t know if this is interesting or not but the rise of the detective story - mid to late 19th C occurs just as realism/naturalism is on the rise where people like Ibsen aren’t giving neat happy endings, where characters don’t always get what they deserve, where there is moral ambiguity and the death of god is being whispered about - maybe the detective gives succour to that need that’s been removed from traditional literary forms. Just an idea. This is turning into an @IdleRich post…
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I think if Gawain is a detective then he’s very much in the mould of the set up detective where he becomes the fall guy.
I really want to see this film, desperate to find out if he does get his head cut off and, if not, how he avoids it.
After all the quest he goes on ends with him avoiding sleeping with the femme fatale and then being made to kneel and wait literary for an execution which is called off right at the last moment.
Oh.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I don’t know if this is interesting or not but the rise of the detective story - mid to late 19th C occurs just as realism/naturalism is on the rise where people like Ibsen aren’t giving neat happy endings, where characters don’t always get what they deserve, where there is moral ambiguity and the death of god is being whispered about - maybe the detective gives succour to that need that’s been removed from traditional literary forms. Just an idea. This is turning into an @IdleRich post…
Yeah this is exactly what I'm asking about. But is this "rise in realism" the same thing that people are referring to when they talk about fracturing of narrative, loss of objectivity etc? In other words is (post)modernism simply a fancy word for this?
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Don't worry, I read it when I was a kid. Also, perhaps more importantly, it's not the type of story that turns on that event. In fact most stories depend more on how you arrive at an event and how events are described than the actual events themselves. Perhaps murder mysteries are, if not unique, at least unusual, in the amount of damage that can be done to the reading experience by saying "It was the Butler, they were able to pour from the bottle and only kill the target as they had earlier smeared the poison on the inside of her cup".

It does raise a question about spoilers though - I've seen arguments with people complaining about spoilers to old things (though not that old) and others saying that you can't reasonably expect people to tip-toe around something that has been in the public domain for decades - I think I disagree though, everything is new until you've seen it and for a given person and story you can't know whether or not they have so it's common courtesy to not reveal the answer to whodunit type things.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
One thing I meant to ask.. private eye I get, but private dick sounds like something totally different, and gumshoe? How about shamus?

Also, beyond the nicknames, do these people still exist? Careers teachers never even mentioned that job to me but if they had done I think I would have greeted it with a bit more enthusiasm than I did the constantly repeated suggestions of accountant, actuary or - I know, how about - a different kind of accountant.
 

jenks

thread death
I think ex-coppers set up as private detectives. I know Graham Swift’s Light of Day uses that idea but it’s not crime novel really.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
"Shamus" presumably comes from Seamus - maybe a reference to many cops in America being of Irish extraction? As in "paddy wagon" for police van.
 

luka

Well-known member
do these people still exist?
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IdleRich

IdleRich
I think ex-coppers set up as private detectives. I know Graham Swift’s Light of Day uses that idea but it’s not crime novel really.
Yeah I get the impression you tend to move there after a career in some security service or police etc you need contacts and experience more than anything else I'd imagine.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
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A new field has opened up... but I get the impression that a big part of it was always about cheating husbands and who they were snagging etc makes sense for them to move into this territory.
 

luka

Well-known member
thats right yes. check out the websites of the agencies online and youl get a sense of it
 

version

Well-known member
"Shamus" presumably comes from Seamus - maybe a reference to many cops in America being of Irish extraction? As in "paddy wagon" for police van.
There's that bit in The Big Lebowski where he confronts the PI who's been following him who thinks he's also a private detective;

"I'm a Brother Seamus!"
"A Brother Seamus? What... like an Irish monk?"
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I wonder if they do honey trap type things.
It sounds like a relatively interesting even fun job... but I suppose the reality is much more boring and sordid and depressing.

Telling Mrs Jones that Mr Jones' frequent business trips to Swindon are actually cos he takes his secretary to the Pizza Express there before booking into Travel Inn with her as Mr and Mrs Smith - unimaginative transgressions by tedious people that you have to report back on with the result it breaks up a family.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I'm finding two things for Shamus - one is that lots of police were Irish and do it meant originally just a detective... later it became specifically a private one.

The other derivation thst keeps coming up is via the Yiddish word for Sexton although I'm not really reading a good explanation of why it should be slang for a PI.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Well the stereotype in New York, at least, is that all coppers are Irish, or used to be.
Seems jury is kinda out

"There are generally two camps of thought about where the term comes from, and both have to do with encounters with the police. The difference is whether the Irish were the ones being arrested or the ones doing the arresting."
 
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