The Continental Op / Red Harvest [It’s a Crime: New Indian Express]

So you know that I have been writing a column on Detective Fiction with The New Indian Express. I really like the name of the column – It’s a Crime!

23 December 2015

Here was my first piece, on Dashiell Hammet’s Continental Op.

There are two distinct genres in detective fiction – not exhaustive, nor watertight, but they serve as good markers to the progress of detective / mystery stories. They are the Country House Mystery, and the Hardboiled Mystery.

The Country House mystery (also called the Manor House Mystery, or the cozy mystery) is characterized by an eschewal of too much blood and gore. Sure, there would be a murder, or a theft. But they will be done with some level of élan – it wouldn’t be something too plebian, if I may. There will be a close group of suspects, and the least suspicious of them will eventually be apprehended for the crime by a genius detective. You know the type – Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey.

I absolutely love the cozy mystery. And I would love to tell you more about this specific genre when we meet here again. And really, how can a detective fiction aficionado not like Poirot, at least a little bit?

But today, let me tell you about hardboiled mysteries, and about Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, perhaps the most hardboiled of all hardboiled protagonists.

Hardboiled is ‘human condition’ writing – the mystery is important, but more important is the ambiance and the scene. It exchanges the prim and proper English manor house for the dust and the grime of America’s seedy underbelly. Gone is the bumbling assistant – the leading man is a lone wolf. World-weary, sarcastic, even downright anti-establishment at times, the only thing keeping him on our right side is his irreconcilably strict moral compass…….

Read the rest of the piece here.

Indian Express 12.23.2015

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About Shom

Shom Biswas is a writer from India. @Spinstripe
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