Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hardboiled and Washed Up?

Maybe it's just been the string of hard-boiled novels I read lately, but I sure read a lot of worn out, washed up folks who seem just about ready to sit down and wait to die.

Is it the underdog thing that appeals to people? The former police/detective who pulls himself out of the bottle, wrings himself out, and goes off to redeem himself for the woman he loved-- perhaps this type of tale appeals because it's that second chance, that redemption, that coming from behind for the win scenario? Does it give people hope?

Me, I have trouble getting past the damned depressing intro with the unhappy protag who doesn't know what to do with himself (him more often than her) after screwing up royally.

Do readers not identify with someone who's successful? Or resilient? Or should I say, do hard-boiled readers just prefer the old, tired out, beaten down guy who just needs one more chance to do right. Maybe that's what being hard-boiled is about-- those mean streets kicking ass too many times?

I don't like happy fluffy books, but I'd at least like to see the characters be successful. No private eye who works all cases for charity and can't pay rent or some such thing. In my world-- the real world-- there's no such thing. If you're gonna stay in a business, you need to make enough to pay the bills. Or before long, you're not in business. (Besides, who would hire the guy who's not good enough to support himself?)

Maybe it's an age thing-- I've got most of my life ahead of me. I intend to be successful at it. And I'd like some characters I can relate to in this regard. Ones who have their focus on a successful future, not a messed up past.

But that doesn't mean I don't like me some good bitter commentary. Even from washed up, worn out former screw ups.


Barbara Martin said...

Perhaps writers write on the washed up people because the publishers buy it. I would rather see a character who has his focus on life and can solve a problem.
For me the underdog tales are passe.

Clair Dickson said...

I hope these aren't all the publishers buy! But then again, if it's what the audience buys, then the publishers will follow the money.