RARA-AVIS: Re: Blown Away

From: Paul Duncan ( paul.duncan@asml.nl)
Date: 04 Jan 2000

This thread is not necessarily about the best authors, only the authors who first 'turned us on' to Hardboiled/Noir fiction, and those who continue to excite us. Here are some of mine:

1) Dashiell Hammett: I had read mostly SF when I received a book voucher from my employer as my Christmas bonus. I found a collected edition of Hammett's novels, and read Red Harvest the first day, on the train to/from work. Loved it so much, I read the other 4 novels the rest of the week. I then bought the short stories the following week. For me, the Op has it over Spade. (I am not keen on Chandler and most PI fiction
- with a few exceptions - because of the artificial nature of stories. I can understand The Op or whoever working for a company, doing industrial espionage etc. but I dislike the wise-cracking, knight errant, underlying holier-than-thou attitude of many PI novels.)

2) James Ellroy: I picked up a cheap copy of Black Dahlia after comics writer James D Hudnall reccommended Ellroy to me. It struck me that the central characters are cops, and they are bad guys, and the differences between the good-bad cops and the bad-bad cops was only marginal. I immediately picked up everything else I could find and loved it. Ellroy writes about obsession, mainly his own, and his style of writing reflects this. He is experimenting, showing the absurdities of life, and having fun with our perceptions of history and the people who make it.

3) Jim Thompson: I started with The Killer Inside Me, read three others in the collection (Zomba Books), went to Murder One in London every month and picked up the Black Lizard reprints when they were available. Thompson is Noir, in that his books are confessions by people who know that there is darkness inside them. Although not all the books are great, many of them have a nightmare quality which I love.

4) Derek Raymond: It is very difficult to read some of Derek Raymond's books because he confronts the 'evil' in people head-on. He does not look away. He looks it squarely in the face. The reason Raymond's stories work is because, as well as the recognising the horror in the world, he shows the compassion that one human being can have for another. Although Patricia Cornwell may claim that Scarpetta probes dead bodies so that she can bring them to life, I think it is Raymond who makes the dead live more vividly. He confirms that life can be beautiful despite the bad things around us.

5) Charles Willeford: Once I had started the Hoke Moseley series, I could not stop. And then I found the reprints of his earlier novels. Only a couple more to find. The Moseley series is special because Willeford expresses the fragility of life (Junior breaks someone's finger and they die, Moseley cannot move for days for no reason whatsoever) and the importance of family (Junior tries to make a family, Moseley assembles people around him). Willeford is showing that love can protect us from dead, or if not protect us, at least make the waiting more pleasant.

So those are the 5 that immediately come to mind, but I would love to add Cornell Woolrich, David Goodis, Horace McCoy, James M Cain, Gerald Kersh, Fredric Brown, Shane Stevens and many others who litter my shelves and attic.

- paul duncan

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