Friday, October 07, 2005

Down These Mean Streets

I'm gonna post a quotation about writing every week, and you folks have to guess who said or wrote it. And beyond the simple guesswork, I'd like to know your take on it. Why you like it or don't like it, or in some instances, your interpretation of it.

Since this is the first one, I'm starting with a layup. After this, the training wheels come off.


"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

18 comments:

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

Rebecca Harding Davis said it.

Do I get a prize? Cookies?

Maybe you could do a muppet impression in November....

Jon

Derek Johnson said...

When I first read these words as an unsuspecting teenager in the 1980s they had the same sort of impact as Uncle Ben's dictum, "With great power comes great responsibility." However, when one looks at characters like Willeford's Hoke Mosley, John MacDonald's Travis McGee or Ellroy's Bud White, it becomes more and more difficult for the traditional crime fiction hero to adhere to such a moral code. And while I love Chandler and his alter ego Marlowe, I find the above mentioned characters and Hammett's amoral Sam Spade more interesting.

The essay itself, though, is vital because it took the crime story out of the stuffy English tea rooms and back on the streets.

~Derek

Fred said...

No idea who said it, but I'm not sure how universal it is. If it applies to detective novels, my favorite characters might fit, but others might not. It would apply to Marlow, or to Harry Bosch, but would it apply to Lawrence Block? Dunno. But I like where you're going with these questions.

f

p.s. -- Let people post anonymously, will you? This blogger stuff sucks.

AnswerGirl said...

It wouldn't be fair for me to say whose line that is... though I laughed at Jon's post. But I do think the part about "not himself mean," is vital, even in the darkest noir novels -- the hard-boiled detective is enforcing his own ideas of justice, no matter how twisted those might be.

A theme, I might add, that you explore very well in your own books...

James Lincoln Warren said...

Ross Macdonald said of the man quoted that he "wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-baked streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence."

GreggHurwitz.net said...

No cookies for you, Jon. Enjoyed the comments, Derek and Fred and, as always, JLW and Ms. Clair. And Fred - we tried to have anonymous posts but marketing programs can get past that and we were inundaded with ads for Viagra and herbal supplements (some of which, I confess, looked quite interesting). So, alas, we require a brief registration to screen out the poseurs.

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