Thoughts on the Future
of the Genre
In the June 1998 issue of GQ, columnist and critic-at-large Terrence Rafferty presented an insightful and provocative look at the mystery genre. Particularly relevant to this group is his contention that
"...since the last Lew Archer novel (The Blue Hammer, 1976), the lone-wolf private eye has been in decline, fading slowly into history like the Western heroes he was partly modelled on. There are, of course, plenty of writers working the lod formulas, but most of them--even the commercially successful ones such as Robert B. Parker and Sue Grafton--feel like nostalgic diehards, worn down from the strain of keeping the Chandler faith alive. Parker's detective, Spenser, and Grafton's female P.I., Kinsey Millhone, seem as anochronistic as the sybaritic dilletantes of the Golden Age, because they have no reason for being other than to remind us of the genre's glorious past. As a compelling myth, the private eye is history."
Rafferty then goes on to praise Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series, and then confesses that
"...the only other extant private-eye series I read with any pleasure is Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series...Block understood that the only sort of man who'd be convincing as a private eye these days would be a misfit; not a principled, romanticized one like Marlowe, but a drunk, a depressive, a screwup--in contemporary terms, a loser. In the corporate culture of late-twentieth century America, an independent operator is a loser. (Freelance writers like Block know this as well as anyone does.) The private eye, that seductive image of incorruptible independence, just doesn't correspond to our current sense of ourselves. In 1950 Chandler wrote," The private eye is admittedly an exaggeration--a fantasy. But at least he's an exaggeration of the possible." Not anymore, I'm afraid."..