Ever since Raymond Chandler decreed in The Simple Art of Murder (1950) that ‘Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid’, writers of hard-boiled crime fiction have queued up to take a shot at creating a hero who is less of a paragon than Chandler’s prescription and therefore supposedly more credible. Some, like James Ellroy, even abandon the project altogether, declaring the streets of the modern Western city to be so detestably mean that no one resembling Philip Marlowe could possibly be found on them.
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