RARA-AVIS: setting, Helm, Whitfield, Casablanca

Sun, 7 Feb 1999 23:22:03 EST Words that I respond to:

<< Agree that exotic locales are out, generally, although a novel like Ride
the Pink Horse (Dorothy B. Hughes) actually structures its story of
vengeance against the major segments of a Hispanic/Indian fiesta in Santa
Fe, setting up an interesting kind of "cross-cultural navigation," the sort
of ethnic setting that later non-hard-boiled authors such as Tony Hillerman
and Dana Stabenow create. My other reaction is that hard-boiled fiction,
like good mainstream realism, often makes the environment of the city a
kind of "exotic" character, so that just as we talk about Dickens' London,
we talk about the LA of Chandler or Ellroy or Himes' Harlem.
Bill Hagen

<< I couldn't think of too many well-known hard-boiled titles in which
an exotic locale is a major theme (or cross-cultural navigation). >>

In Pronzini and Adrian's anthology, _Hard Boiled: an anthology of
American crime stories_, there's Raoul Whitfield's very nice "Mistral"
from 1931, set in Nice. Aside from a few factual errors, it is very
hard-boiled and very much rooted in this exotic locale.

BTW, I wonder if anyone on this list could possibly direct me to a few
cameo shots of Astor, Lorre, Greenstreet, Cowan & Cook, the cast from
_Maltese Falcon_?
Cheers, --- Phil
Lycee Astier, Aubenas, France

I haven't read Ride the Pink Horse yet, but I thought that fell into the
exotic, but defined, subcategory of the carny novel. I do think that place
plays a significant role in the hard-boiled, but it is often the exposure of
the unseen underbelly of places that we know or can pretend to be familiar
with (New York, LA, etc.).

I think of Mistral on occasion. It's been some time since rara-avis read that
Oxford UP collection, and that story really sticks with me. Setting is
similarly exotic, I suppose, in The Talented Mr. Ripley. But neither setting
is on the order of, say, The Rose of Tibet. BTW, has anyone printed a volume
of Whitfield stories? Maybe it's a job for Doug Greene.

Philip Benz reminds us of exotic settings in noirish movies--Casablanca.
Other comparable films? Gilda, the working man's Casablanca, has a supposedly
South American setting, but none of it seems too exotic to me. Is the Mexico
of Touch of Evil exotic?

When approaching Helm books, I first read The Silencers (4), then Death of a
Citizen (1), both of which take place in the southwest, which was very vivid,
and somewhat exotic in its starkness and emptiness (especially after the more
standard fare of anonymous populated cities). Based on these books, I thought
all the Helm books would be in the southwest (I was wrong, of course). I
thought that Hamilton had invented a genre in which over and over again we
would see rural road houses, desolate hotels, deserts, buttes, and so forth.
That would've been something, so I was almost disappointed when I encountered
the Sweden of The Wrecking Crew. (I'm on to Murders' Row now).

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.vex.net/~buff/rara-avis/.