Re: RARA-AVIS: Working towards a definition of sorts

My compliments to all for sustaining such interesting dialogue.  I like the
way that we worry definitions AND endorse or put down certain writers.
Scholarly qualifications are balanced by fans' enthusiasms.

Let me add a few thoughts to the many:
1) Can we agree that "hard-boiled" (and "tough guy") usually refer to a
main character (with an attitude), who is, in turn, usually a private
investigator, or moonlights as one?  I'm used to seeing "hard-boiled"
always connected to "detective."
        a) But I would be the first to agree that the term "hard-boiled"
has been put to various uses;
                witness its use in the John Woo film of that title.
2)  Historically, hasn't  "noir" or "serie noir" (paperbacks) sometimes
referred to hard-boiled detective narratives (certainly in film it has),
BUT ALSO included what Julian Symons and Tony Hilfer call the "crime
novel"?  So "noir" seems to be the larger category, including both sides of
the law--or  both sides of the crime.  [I like the subtitle of Hilfer's
1990 U. Texas study:  THE CRIME NOVEL: A DEVIANT GENRE.]

3) With those categories, one overlapping the other, one can speak of
Hammett and Cain as "noir" or separate them into "hard-boiled detective"
and "crime" categories. Depends where you want to go.  But it's useful to
maintain some distinctions in terms.

4)  While hard-boiled detectives would seem most at home in the city, with
the rest of the "wise guys," many noir fictions are located outside urban
areas.  Cain has been mentioned; Dorothy Hughes' RIDE THE PINK HORSE (and
film), most of Jim Thompson, and the films FURY, HIGH SIERRA, and THEY
DRIVE BY NIGHT all make the "noir" lists, but are located in small towns or
the countryside.  [I take my bearings here from Silver And Ward's excellent
FILM NOIR, which they call in subtitle "the American Style," the one
without antecedents in adventure fiction, thus made completely in America.]

Speaking as a fan, I'm glad to see Patricia Highsmith mentioned.  Tumbled
to her after seeing Wenders' "American Friend," with Dennis Hopper playing
Ripley, I believe.  Those who want cheaper thrills of the same kind might
try "Delacorta," whose novels feature Gorodish and Alba as aesthete
criminals who frequently get away with murder.  His first of the series was
DIVA, popularized by the film, and then the rest follow, all
2-syllable-end-in-a titles (Nana, Luna, Lola...), in day-glo covers with
fast-written, eventful plots.  In VIDA, "Delacorta" pays homage to R.
Chandler by taking most of his chapter titles out of THE LONG GOODBYE.  Not
bad, as pulp goes.

See some of you at PCA in San Antonio.

Bill Hagen

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