Re: RARA-AVIS: Hard-Boiled vs Noir

Reed Andrus (
Sun, 26 Jul 1998 16:44:13 -0700 ejm duggan wrote:
> Someone recently asked what was the difference between hb and noir.
> Basically (IMO), hb has institutionalised corruption as its backdrop.
> The protagonist is cynical, and the methods of the hb hero may be
> indistiguishable from the hoods. Vernacular speech may also be a
> feature.

Interesting. By that definition, John Camp's FOOL'S RUN and THE EMPRESS
FILES qualify. For want of another description, the protagonist (and
those he employs) are professional vengeance handlers. They contract out
to defeat corrupt town leaders, or big business powermongers.

Here's another one: John Clarkson's excellent AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. The
hero is Jack Devlin, head of international security for some
world-spanning conglomerate who returns home when his only relative is
beaten near to death in a bar. As he investigates, he runs up against a
powerful gang of thugs who have some police in their hip pocket. A minor
investigation escalates into an all-out war.

Does the fact that the corrupt institution is basically criminal fall
into the hb category?

> Noir, on the other hand, has a gloomy air. Fear and despair are to the
> fore. Bad things happen--wrongful imprisonment of innocent man, for
> example.
> Institutionalised corruption is not a generic requirement of noir as I
> see it.
> Hope this helps/leads to further discussion.
> ED

So the theme of wrongfully imprisoned guy (or the guy who takes the fall
for a corrupt friend), who returns for retribution is what ... noir or
hard boiled?

And what about ambience? Can't a hardboiled novel also be gloomy.
Reference any of Thomas Cook's early novel that featured a New York cop
that quits to become an Atlanta private eye.

... Reed
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