Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: New Noir

Melissa Hudak (
Mon, 12 Jan 1998 15:06:10 -0600 (CST) Mari asked about Robert Skinner's books. Very good reads, and
exceptionally true to their era. The lead character is Wesley Farrell,
the son of a Creole family, who is passing as white. A great deal of the
books' emotion comes from the fact that Farrell is reluctant to reveal his
true racial mix because he knows he will end up losing everything he has
worked so hard to gain if he does so.

I read the first book in the series, Skin Deep Blood Red about a year ago,
so I'm a bit vague on plot details. However, if I'm remembering
correctly, Farrell is asked to investigate a murder that threatens his
family. Wanting to stay as far as possible from the cold and distant
woman who raised him, Farrell agrees to investigate if only to get her out
of his life. Great book, very gritty quality.

The second book I read this weekend. Again, a very good book. A Negro
policeman (that is the term used in the book, so please don't flame me for
being politically incorrect) is being released from prison after serving
time for a manslaughter conviction. Although he was framed, he has little
or no interest in gaining revenge. He just wants to reunited with his
girlfriend, who has been waiting for him. When he returns to New Orleans,
however, he discovers that his girlfriend has been murdered and that
somebody else wants him dead. His girlfriend was also a former girlfriend
of Wesley Farrell, so Farrell helps him track down the killer.

The thing that struck me most vividly about both books is the fact that
they don't prettify their era at all--especially in terms of how the white
and black characters interact. The most annoying thing to me in
historical mysteries is when an author feels compelled to change an era so
that modern day audiences will feel less uncomfortable. Skinner gives as
realistic depiction of 1930's America as in anything by Chandler or
Hammett. It may be disturbing to modern readers, but I think honesty is
better than an airbrushing of history.

Hammett and Chandler, by the way, along with Cornell Woolrich, are used as
comparisions to Skinner's work on the book jacket. I wouldn't say Skinner
is quite that good, but he may get there after one or two more books.

Melissa Hudak

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