Natty "Hawkeye" Bumpo
"I would dare to speak truth, Harry, consarning you or any man that ever lived."
Honorary private eyes throughout history for a thousand, Alex.
No, James Fenimore Cooper's NATTY BUMPO (aka HAWKEYE) is not a private eye. But the five novels that comprise Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales form a major link between the chivalric tradition of the Arthurian legends and the myth of the American frontiersman/ private eye as knight (cf: Marlowe, Chandler, Archer, etc., etc., etc.), and as such, I think he deserves a mention.
Although born to white parents, young Nathaniel grew up among the Mohican tribe, learning their ways and becoming a skilled and virtually fearless hunter and tracker, possessing extroadinary physical prowess and skill with the long rifle, and astounding knowledge of the wilderness, which soon made him much sought after as a scout in the interminable violence of the American frontier. But Hawkeye is also a noble and wise figure, driven by a rigid code of honour, and he walks an uneasy path between white and native, refusing to ally himself completely with either.
To read the books is to subject yourself to what now seems like ponderously brain-clogging prose, but the actual story is timeless. Replace Hawkeye's wilderness with the new urban wilderness of the mean streets, and you're almost home.
Hawkeye -- a "man without a cross" -- is arguably the foundation upon which the American frontier hero (and thus the hard-boiled American private eye) was built. Certainly, the similarites are there, and Hawkeye does all sorts of P.I. things, like being an outsider working mostly alone in a corrupt and violent world, trying to hold on to a rigid and personal code of honour, carrying a gun and doing what must be done, and working on a wandering daughter job or two (or quest, if you like).
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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