Guest Post: Dicks and Gats by Christopher Eger
My, my, my! Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains! You know, you're the second guy I've met today that seems to think a gat in the hand means the world by the tail.
-- Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep
The handgun and the private detective go hand in hand. This has been an aspect of fictional flatfoots for more than a century and will likely continue to be so in the future. In most cases, the gun in question is a simple reflection of the man holding its grip.
The first real detectives only showed up in Edgar Allen Poe's Murder in the Rue Morgue, and it was several decades before the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's deerstalker-clad, substance-abusing Sherlock Holmes made an appearance. While in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of the Four, Holmes came to use a revolver secreted upon his person, his weapon of choice was a Webley "Metropolitan Police" revolver, a small and compact snub-nosed piece very similar to the Chief's Special of today. Very little gunplay takes place in Holmes career.
Contrast this to the classic noir era private investigators of Hammett, Cain, Burnett, and Chandler. The favored handguns for these dicks was the long-slide Colt 1911 .45 ACP. Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer was a fan of Colt 1911s in a well-worn shoulder holster with the occasional guest appearance of a snub-nosed .38 or two. His 1980s counterpart, Magnum PI, never actually carried a magnum-caliber handgun, eschewing it for another classic 1911.
The Colt is a complicated weapon that is difficult to master. It has a five-inch barrel that is longer than most others are -- but imparts greater accuracy due to the corresponding sight picture.
Phillip Marlowe and his counterparts are complicated but brutal, capable of dealing death but only after carefully taking aim on the situation. They, like the Colt, are not for the novice. As a counterbalance, female characters in noir detective tales typically have small, delicate handguns and villains are often portrayed with long sinister pistols such as the Luger.
In something completely different, we have the magical world that Dick Richards: Private Eye moves thorough. Dick Richards, Chris Wong Sick Hong's anti-hero, packs a well-tested handgun in a shoulder holster under his left armpit, in an ode to Mike Hammer. This enables the gumshoe to pluck it handily from its hiding place with his right hand in a cross draw. For special occasions, Dick packs a second holster for those interesting handguns picked up along the way.
Richards' weapons, intended for magical beings, are a thing of a slightly skewed universe. Wicker magazines replace steel. Shaped-quartz bullets take the place of copper-jacketed lead hollow-points. The guns are both technologically and magically sophisticated, meant to deal death to creatures that we have never encountered.
Marlowe would have never stood a chance in Dick Richard’s world.