Classic American Private Investigators – Detectives from the Hardboiled Sub-Genre

The hardboiled sub-genre emerged during the Golden Age of detective fiction, the 1920s. Authors such as Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett can be called its founding fathers, as they were almost exclusively responsible for the increase in the sub-genre’s popularity. The private investigators in these stories, were normally highly intuitive and not afraid to use a little physical persuasion to get answers.

Unlike other detective stories they are professional, not amateur, investigators and use their street smarts to solve cases because of a lack of clues. One of the most admirable characteristics of the hardboiled detective is his high levels of honour, although many of them become bitter as a result of what they deem to be a dishonourable society. Even though not outwardly acknowledged, this detective is a hero in his own right, showing neither fear not hesitation whenever solving a case. Most hardboiled private investigators are loners and remain adamantly single, and/or work on their own.

Philip Marlowe – created by Raymond Chandler

After being fired from the D.A.’s office for insubordination, also known as talking back, Philip Marlowe becomes a private investigator. His size and stature, 6’1” and 190 lbs, are normally enough to intimidate the criminals that he interrogates, without the need for using his fists. He also has an amazing ability to use liquor to loosen the tongues of those he questions. There are very few answers that Marlowe does not receive.

His size allows him to drink heavily without many adverse effects and his preferred alcoholic beverages are whiskey or brandy. Marlowe also consumes large quantities of coffee. This Camel smoking, tough P.I. is quietly very intellectual, only playing himself in chess due to the lack of worthy competition. As a natural risk taker, Marlowe is not afraid of physical harm and has been known to attain injury on the job. 

Sam Spade – created by Dashiell Hammett

A tough-guy detective with a sharp tongue, Sam Spade is as straightforward and cynical as they come. Not a very trusting person, Spade remains single and solves most of his cases by himself.

C.W. Sughrue – created by James Crumley

One of the most hardened detectives of the hardboiled sub-genre, C.W. Sughrue relies heavily on violence to get answers. The character has deep emotional scarring from his time spent serving in Vietnam, which makes him fatalistic and impulsive. Even though he normally works alone, Sughrue has solved a few cases with the help of Milo Milodragovich. Sughrue’s personal life reflects his impulsive personality and he enjoys sincere, rapid sex, uses mind altering drugs and consumes large quantities of alcohol.

 

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