October 18 – Hard-Boiled Guy / Girl Day

Posted October 18, 2020

The name of this special day gave me pause - hard-boiled guy? Hard-boiled girl?

"Hard-boiled" detective fiction is a particular style of crime writing that became popular in books and movies in the 1930s.

You have to look at literary styles in relation to earlier styles. There was a British style of mystery book that - even though it may have been about icky things like murder - downplayed blood and violence. These sorts of books often took place at country manors that had entire staffs of cooks and maids and butlers and that frequently hosted relatives; all those people living in close proximity meant a bunch of suspects with excellent motives for murder!

Apparently this style of mystery was followed elsewhere, including the U.S., even though there were few well-staffed country manors in that country! 

My favorite kind of mystery is the
more cerebral, less gritty, very British
style of books. I really love books by
Agatha Christie, especially the ones
with quirky Belgian detective Hercule

These sorts of British mysteries ruled in America - until author Dashiell Hammett. An American who had worked for years for the Pinkerton detective agency, Hammett wrote "grittier" and more realistic stories with more modern settings. More violence, more blood. (So, very much NOT my thing.) 

Hammett's new, gritty, violent, realistic detective fiction - which was often set in cities, not on countryside estates - was and still is called hard-boiled fiction.

Hammett's most famous detective was Sam Spade. Spade was tough, hard, able to handle whatever came his way. Although he wasn't the sort of intellectual solver-of-puzzles that fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was, Spade did have a good eye for details and a sharp, practical intelligence.

Spade was the main character in Hammett's most famous book, The Maltese Falcon. Several movie versions of this book have been made - and today is the anniversary of the most famous version, the 1941 film starring Humphrey Bogart.
And that's why today is Hard-Boiled Guy / Girl Day!

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