Re: RARA-AVIS: Definitions again: cozies and hardboiled/noir

Bill Hagen (
Tue, 2 Mar 1999 09:11:50 -0600 (CST) ED writes, after one cuppa coffee, in response to my questioning whether
Cain's work meets the definition of "hardboiled" that was posted by Bill
Denton. [I suggested that it fit the "noir" category better.]:

"I'm not sure that there has to be a *detective figure* in order to
qualify a text as hard boiled
[:flame suit off]

"FWIW, however, in Cain's _TPART_, there is an investigating agent, and
of course Frank and Cora are under investigation. However, there's no
murder in Cain's _Mildred Pierce_, so, following the chain of logic
implied by Bill H.'s post, Cain's _MP_ wouldn't be hardboiled, while the
film would be...? [on the grounds that there is a detective who
investigates MP--the film unfolds as a series of flashbacks while she is
being questioned]. "

After two cups of coffee, but still not fully awake, it seems to me that ED
is disagreeing with the definitions that were posted. A key distinction
between "hardboiled" and "noir" in the definitions [which I think are good
ones] has to do with what kind of character is the *protagonist* and what
kind of *plot* that person is involved in. So let me quote definition
snippets on protagonists and plots:

> - involves a detective, private investigator, reporter or somenoe
> similar as the protagonist in a criminal investigation
> - features criminals or victims as protagonists, people who can't
> control themselves (psychologically) or, finally, what happens to
> them. [snip]

The protagonist is the chief character or characters, and the plot centers
on the protagonist(s)--what he/she/they do and is done to him/her/them.
[This could get old fast.] Of course, hardboiled plots of investigation
(and perhaps revenge) may have sympathetic criminals and victims, but they
are not the protagonists unless they are driving the plot of investigation
(are investigators); similarly noir plots will have investigators coming
after the protagonists.

Hence, my questioning of where Cain "fits" is based on the kinds of
protagonists featured in his novels.

Hope this makes sense. I need another cup...or a nap.

Bill Hagen

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