Title: Hard-boiled mystery



Location: Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man Mickey Spillane, My Gun Is Quick Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

Pagination: 0

Illustrations: - hard-drinking, hard-living, 'outsider' detective - dames with gams - conspiracy

Document Type: Graffiti


The hard-boiled detective story is driven by mood - like film noir, it is set in a gritty, hostile world of corruption and urban decay. As a private investigator (private eye, private dick), the detective figure is isolated, severed from social institutions such as the police force. The private eye is wholly unconventional in his methods; as such, it is difficult to make the case for reasserting order in a disordered world. Hard-boiled mystery comes out of a movement towards realism in American fiction. By presenting the detective figure as a troubled, fractured character, the mystery acquires greater depth than the unravelling of a plot. Furthermore, the plot does not hinge on an individual crime. There is a permeating sense of corruption, such that the detective is searching for proof of basic values and fundamental justice. The term 'hard-boiled' describes the stereotyped detective figure: hardened, callous, shrewd and practical. Sex, and the equally stereotyped figures of sultry blondes and secretive dark-haired temptresses, alcohol, and social disillusionment are characteristic elements of the genre. It is the antithesis of the 'cosy' mystery, in that there is no community security to fall back on, order is not reasserted, and even when the mystery is solved, the essential corruption remains.