Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hard-Boiled Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is often seen as representing a genteel, classical Great Detective tradition dominated by the romantic figure of the amateur or amateur-acting sleuth who stands in sharp contrast to the supposedly more realistic hard boiled private eye.

In reality, though, even Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and their successors today share much with Holmes. Consider:

Holmes is an urban creature, although he does sometimes don the cloth cap and venture to the countryside. He is a loner, often cutting even Watson out of the loop. He has no permanent lady except the faithful Mrs. Hudson. He often operates outside the law, committing burglary in four stories and several times letting the villain flee – or die. He bucks authority, even royalty, and he can’t be bought. All are characteristics of the hard-boiled detective, from the earliest heroes of Black Mask magazine to many (though admittedly not all) of the PIs operating fictionally today.

This debt to Sherlock Holmes is not often acknowledged by private eye writers and their fans. Raymond Chandler, who is still lionized by many, ridiculed the traditional Golden Age mystery – especially the British sort, as unrealistic. He seemed to be under the illusion that his stories were not. The highlight of his justly-famous essay "The Simple Art of Murder" its often-quoted ending:

. . . down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor -- by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.
That beautiful writing is intended as a character sketch of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and his cohorts on the hardboiled side of the house. It strikes me, however, as being also a good description of Sherlock Holmes!

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