Detectives - the dominant characters of the 20th Century Discuss

version

Well-known member
I don't know what that is, sounds intriguing.
I'm thinking of a list of detective things I would call avant-garde or experimental, feel free to add to this list.

NY Trilogy - three novellas by Paul Auster
Alphaville - film directed by Godard
Les Gommes - novel by Alan Robbe-Grillet
The Voyeur - novel by ARG
Successive Slidings of Pleasure - film directed by ARG
The Man Without A Map - film directed by Teshigahara, and whaddya know, turns out it's an adaptation of that book you just mentioned!

What else? There must be loads out there.
Inherent Vice; Borges' Death and the Compass; The Man Who Was Thursday perhaps fits too, also the second part of Molloy's centred on a detective looking for Molloy.
 

DLaurent

Well-known member
I watch a ton of film noir, more noir's than I can remember. Noir is usually more hardboiled than to do with scientific reasoning like in Poe. My understanding is that writers and directors wanted to portray the seedier sides of life while being working under 'codes' so if not centred on detectives, always had a 'law' element. Curiously I don't watch much if any British film noir as what I have seen hasn't been hardboiled enough for me. But then you have the 'Dragnet' police procedural stuff that you could argue is as much propaganda for police recruitment as entertainment. There's been loads of films like that, The Blue Lamp is a British one from the 50s, recruiting for the police after WW2. I've watched noirs, forget the name, that is just showing off the police technology of the time. And although I say this and watch a lot of film noir, I don't really have an answer, so it's an enjoyable thread.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Not sure IV is thatbavant-garde, it's a bit whacky but that's not the same. It reminds me more of those Dirk Gently ones which are weird.
Thursday is a good call, especially cos he also wrote Father Brown.
The Trial keeps coming to mind but it's not quite right although there is a mystery.
The CIty and the City is a good one though. An extended metaphor for the way that the rich, the homeless and so on all live in different cities in the same space - could have been a total mess but it just about works.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I watch a ton of film noir, more noir's than I can remember. Noir is usually more hardboiled than to do with scientific reasoning like in Poe. My understanding is that writers and directors wanted to portray the seedier sides of life while being working under 'codes' so if not centred on detectives, always had a 'law' element. Curiously I don't watch much if any British film noir as what I have seen hasn't been hardboiled enough for me. But then you have the 'Dragnet' police procedural stuff that you could argue is as much propaganda for police recruitment as entertainment. There's been loads of films like that, The Blue Lamp is a British one from the 50s, recruiting for the police after WW2. I've watched noirs, forget the name, that is just showing off the police technology of the time. And although I say this and watch a lot of film noir, I don't really have an answer, so it's an enjoyable thread.
I've watched a lot of noise too... and neo-niirs and so on. I thought Brick was s very interesting film.
 

DLaurent

Well-known member
I have watched most of the Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe movies but still can't put them into words. I have read relatively little of Chandler and Hammett. I think they are the two most important 20th century detectives and most of it is down to their humour and the tough guy personas. Before that you have Dupin from Poe who was much more reasonable. He never would have got into a fight to find out the truth.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I have watched most of the Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe movies but still can't put them into words. I have read relatively little of Chandler and Hammett. I think they are the two most important 20th century detectives and most of it is down to their humour and the tough guy personas. Before that you have Dupin from Poe who was much more reasonable. He never would have got into a fight to find out the truth.
Dupin is also a wealthy dilettante who solves these sorts of puzzles for amusement, IIRC.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
That is certainly one way of dividing the great detectives - which ones were prepared to fight and which weren't.

Holmes didn't mind the odd dust up I seem to remember - and of course he relaxes by injecting cocaine - Poirot is way too fat and weak to fight - he'd rather drink a thimble of sone unfeasibly effeminate liqueur, Father Brown is a man of God and of peace who would happily stand there and allow the bad guys to pound him into the dust while he turned the other cheek, Miss Marple on the other hand always carries some brass knuckles in her handbag which she is willing to use at the slightest provocation.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Holmes is described as being thin almost to the point of being emaciated, and on top of the drugs is also a heavy smoker, yet he's described as being preternaturally strong, fit, and tasty in a fight. Always struck me as one of the less realistic aspects of the stories.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
He carries a swordstick I believe.
True, but I think he also just duffs up a few blokes with his fists. There's also that scene where a really massive guy who's a blacksmith or something, who by rights ought to be able to snap Holmes in half like a twig, starts menacing him, and Holmes responds by grabbing an iron bar that's just handily lying there and bends it in half with his bare hands.
 

woops

is not like other people
i haven't read the thread but

bukowski - pulp
marc boem - eye of the beholder

the detective in english begins with holmes and runs as far as deckard
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
First series of True Detective was some of the best TV I'd seen in years, I reckon. It drew heavily from Twin Peaks, I suppose, although Rust almost couldn't be more unlike Dale Cooper as a personality.
 

Slothrop

Tight but Polite
That is certainly one way of dividing the great detectives - which ones were prepared to fight and which weren't.

I think the other thing about hardboiled detectives is that where Poirot and Holmes are kind-of detached observers, who just gather information without influencing the course of events, characters like Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe tend to get stuck in and provoke people and cause the situation to develop in new ways and then draw some conclusion from (say) who just walked in and pointed a gun at them.
 

Slothrop

Tight but Polite
The other obvious divide is police versus private detectives.

And then some spy stuff, eg a lot of Le Carre is essentially detective stories, but often from the point of view of someone who is technically part of the secret service but is also something of an outsider to it.
 

sufi

lala
I think the other thing about hardboiled detectives is that where Poirot and Holmes are kind-of detached observers, who just gather information without influencing the course of events, characters like Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe tend to get stuck in and provoke people and cause the situation to develop in new ways and then draw some conclusion from (say) who just walked in and pointed a gun at them.

There is something about detective stories that's very close to "true crime" = visceral voyeuristic non-fiction, but with the satisfaction of a plotted resolution at the end obvs maybe one that you can guess before the protagonist.1636243727050.png
So Detective capers are ideal to narrative formats and also less budget than cops or sci fi for film/tv,
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Marlow stories are minimalist like schematics, detective stories are the original "procedural"s - post-war modernsm on the case reporting back, with a calm tone and cool realism

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sufi

lala
they are all veterans arent they
magnum was in the nam,
columbo was probably in korea
marlow in ww2 europe of course
and god only knows what colonial atrocities clouseau was responsible for
 
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