Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir Horror?

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 08 Feb 2000

I strongly disagree with the notion that a hardboiled/horror marriage is impossible. In my life I've stumbled across all sorts of hardboiled marriages: hb westerns, hb SF tales, hb poetry
(Bukowski), hb memoirs (Burrough's JUNKY), etc. Since
"hardboiled" is a perspective, a way of looking at the world, it can be applied, I think, to any literary genre. Why not hardboiled horror?

One obvious indication that such a marriage might be successful is the large number of people who like both genres. This suggests, to me at least, that people are responding to something similar in both. Another is the many, many writers who've tried to blend the two genres already.

I quite agree with you, though, that recent attempts to blend the two have been unsuccessful. That doesn't mean that it's not worth trying, especially if you're interested in horror (a genre that, in my opinion, has managed to back itself into an aesthetic dead-end). It may mean redefining the nature of "horror" in horror fiction, but, well, the genre could use the jumpstart.

By the way, I'm quite taken with my own notion
(suggested by the Lovecraft/Woolrich comparision) that Woolrich is better approached as a fantasist. The next time I try a Woolrich book (I have STRANGLER'S SERENADE somewhere) I'm going to read it in that light.


--- Bob Toomey <> wrote:
> Hardboiled horror is practically an oxymoron.
> Hardboiled is objective,
> horror is subjective. The primary goal of the
> horror story is to evoke
> fear, and it does this by operating along an
> emotional spectrum that is
> scrupulously avoided by hardboiled writers. To
> suggest that someone
> like Lovecraft has any relationship to hardboiled
> literature is
> preposterous. The idea, as someone mentioned here,
> that Matheson's I AM
> LEGEND is somehow hardboiled makes me wonder if he
> even read the book,
> which is full of purple prose and emotional excesses
> that are the
> precise opposite of the hardboiled attitude.
> Which is not to say that there are no stories that
> succeed as both
> horror and hardboiled. But they are few and far
> between, and in nearly
> all cases, the degree to which they succeed as one
> is exactly the degree
> to which they fail as the other. In this instance,
> opposites don't
> attract, they annihilate each other, like matter and
> antimatter.
> BobT

===== Doug Bassett
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