Researching the classic 'Hard Boiled PI' character...

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Thread: Researching the classic 'Hard Boiled PI' character...

  1. #1

    Researching the classic 'Hard Boiled PI' character...

    I recently started writing on a new book featuring, effectively, 'archetypical' versions of a number of classic characters from film and literature. The Mad Scientist, The Rebellious Princess, The Chosen One, The Kung-Fu Monk, etc. Inter-universe travel and stuff. Thing is, one of the characters I want to add is 'The Hard-Boiled PI'. You know the type, right? Humphrey Bogart, cigarettes and bourbon, trench-coat and fedora, has a weakness for dangerous dames with nice gams...

    ...but belatedly, it's occurred to me that I don't actually KNOW that particular archetype very well, beyond those broad strokes and well-worn cliches. It's just never really been my genre, I guess. But if I am to write a character who is the EPITOME of the classic Hard Boiled PI, I need to be more familiar with them! I've picked up The Maltese Falcon for starters - figure that'll be a good starting-point - but I think I'll need more than that. Can anyone recommend any books or movies featuring truly archetypical specimens for further research?

  2. #2
    Anything by Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, the "Black Mask" magazine of the early 20's. Just google "hardboiled" in Google and you'll get a lot. It started my out my love for detective novels (I've written 3, 3 more on hold).

    Try the "thrilling detective" website
    Last edited by midnightpoet; May 11th, 2019 at 12:08 AM.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightpoet View Post
    Anything by Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, the "Black Mask" magazine of the early 20's. Just google "hardboiled" in Google and you'll get a lot.
    Yes... the 'a lot' bit is the problem. In this age of web-searches, finding enough information is rarely the problem. Finding the right information in the absolute deluge supplied to you is the hard bit. Hence, what I'm hoping for is advice to narrow the field - preferably down to the level of a specific book or movie that you feel encapsulates the character of the archetypal hard-boiled detective. Perhaps you could name one or two particular favorites, if you are truly such a connoisseur of the genre?

  4. #4
    Are you planning on setting the story in the 40s or 50s like those books and movies?

  5. #5
    The thin man.
    He's not hard boiled...but his liver is pickled.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    Are you planning on setting the story in the 40s or 50s like those books and movies?
    Not exactly! However, one of the main characters is a P.I. literally transposed directly from 1940's L.A. So I need to get his attitude, mode of speech and general character to fit that era.

  7. #7
    No way to do it other than to read those types of stories. Another writer to read would be Micky Spillane.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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  8. #8
    I'd also recommend Dashell Hammett (Red Harvest specifically) and Raymond Chandler. They had it down to an art.
    “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being,"

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  9. #9
    " literally transposed directly from 1940's L.A. "

    Will he be played by Nicholas Cage?

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Bard_Daniel View Post
    I'd also recommend Dashell Hammett (Red Harvest specifically) and Raymond Chandler. They had it down to an art.
    Red Harvest, you say? I'll look it up and give it a read! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    " literally transposed directly from 1940's L.A. "

    Will he be played by Nicholas Cage?
    Nah, I've got Humphrey Bogart in mind for the role. Sure he's dead and all, but with the way CG's been developing lately, that just means he won't be able to negotiate his salary quite as sharply as he used to...

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