My new novel, “A Pure Double Cross,” is my first icy plunge into the dark world of hardboiled fiction. When I searched the web I was surprised to find very few websites devoted to the field. I mentioned this to my fellow mystery writer Stephen Smoke. He didn’t share my surprise. “Hardboiled fiction is a dead genre,” he said.
Hardboiled fiction, dead? How can such a classic part of the American cannon, that gave birth to the films noir and a thousand trenchcoat-clad, fedora-wearing private dicks, be DEAD??
But could be he’s right. Of all the popular mystery writers working today I can’t cite one who carries the torch, though Robert B. Parker did a bang-up job of completing Raymond Chandler’s last novel “Poodle Springs.”
Perhaps modern authors feel that all the great hardboiled lines have already been written.
And who could blame them?
JK’s Top Ten Hardboiled Lines
10 – “The yellow-haired cutie shivered against me like a cat coughing
- Robert Bellem, from the novel “Death's Passport”
9 – “And that didn't cut enough ice to keep a louse in cold storage."
- Sapper, from the novel “The Return of Bulldog Drummond”
8 - “The cat’s in the bag, and the bag’s in the river."
- Tony Curtis, in the film “Sweet Smell of Success”
7 - “She was a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud. I gave her a drink. She was a gal who'd take a drink, if she had to knock you down to get the bottle."
-- Dick Powell, in the film “Murder My Sweet”
6 - “He staggered into my office, leaned against the door, then keeled over
on his face. He should have. He was dead."
- Humphrey Bogart, in the radio version of “The Maltese Falcon”
5 - “I felt lousy. I felt like an amputated leg."
- Raymond Chandler, from the short story “Trouble Is My Business”
4 - “I hear you're a real boy scout who helps old ladies into oncoming
traffic. Downstate they're not so nice. They say you wear rubber
pockets to steal soup."
- Jack Webb, in the film “Pete Kelly's Blues”
3 - “I don't pray. Kneeling bags my nylons"
- Jan Sterling, in the film “Ace In the Hole”
2 - “Why don't we go somewhere and discuss this over a couple of ice cubes?"
“Imagine you needing ice cubes."
- Audrey Totter and Robert Montgomery, in the film “Lady in the Lake”
1 - “Because you never can tell when life, or some mysterious force, is going to put the finger on you for no good reason at all."
- Tom Neal, in the film “Detour”
Of course the greatest hardboiled dialogue sequence of all time was written by Raymond Chandler for the film “Double Indemnity,” starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.
Walter: I wish you'd tell me what's engraved on that anklet.
Phyllis: Just my name.
Walter: As for instance?
Walter: Phyllis, huh. I think I like that.
Phyllis: But you're not sure.
Walter: I'd have to drive it around the block a couple of times.
Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don't you drop by tomorrow evening around 8:30? He'll be in then.
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him, weren't you?
Walter: Yeah, I was. But I'm sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff, 45 miles an hour.
Walter: How fast was I going, Officer?
Phyllis: I'd say around 90.
Walter: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Walter: Suppose it doesn't take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Walter: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
Walter: That tears it. 8:30 tomorrow evening then.
Phyllis: That's what I suggested.
Walter: You'll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so. I usually am.
Walter: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter: I wonder if you wonder.
Dead, my foot. Writing that good is eternal!-- John Knoerle
Causes John Knoerle Supports
Paralyzed Veterans of America
St. Labre Indian School