Re: RARA-AVIS: Hard-Boiled vs Noir

Mario Taboada (
Sun, 26 Jul 1998 23:33:21 +0000 As so many fellow raravians have pointed out, there is no accepted
definition of hardboiled or noir. Instead of noir, I prefer the term
"dark suspense". The first example I know of is Raoul Whitfield's
masterpiece, _Green Ice_. Whatever you call it, this novel is something
entirely different from the hardboiled novels of Hammett, Daly, Paul
Cain, Latimer, Chandler, etc. The protagonist is an antihero (not a
likable character at all, a man full of resentment), and there are no
good guys to be found anywhere. The prose is feverish bordering on
histerical, and the whole affair smells of David Goodis (though it was
published in 1930!).

While avoiding definitions, one can point out a group of authors that
share this totally pessimistic vision: Whitfield, James Cain, Woolrich,
Goodis, Thompson, Highsmith. When we get to guys like E. Richard Johnson
and the late works of James Ellroy, there are definite hardboiled
elements embedded a giant noir soup, so their work is hard to classify.
Kent Harrington's recent novel _Dark Ride_ is pure noir.

But Elmore Leonard is definitely hardboiled without being in the least
noir. The same can be said of Donald Westlake's "Parker" series, though
his Mitch Tobin series (written as Tucker Coe) is equal parts hardboiled
and noir.


Mario Taboada
# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at