Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir Horror?

From: Terrill Lankford (
Date: 09 Feb 2000

> BobT wrote:
> "Laymon is more hardboiled, but there's a strong streak of romantic
> sentimentality in his work. Maybe all the blood in your eyes is blinding
> you to those elements. Ketchum is . . . romantic . . . Garton, . . .
> pretty romantic, and . . . Poppy Z. Brite's EXQUISITE CORPSE is highly
> romantic, sentimental and emotional at its core."

Then Mark Sullivan wrote:

> I read very little horror (although a few of the descriptions in this
> debate have me intrigued), so I can't comment on the specific examples,
> but the gist seems to be that horror is romantic, hardboiled is not.
> Then I guess we should stop discussing Chandler. What could possibly be
> more romantic than the image of the tarnished knight walking down those
> mean streets?
> Mark

To which I reply: Right on, Mark! The notion that horror is rife with romantic sentimentality and hard-boiled novels are somehow above all that strikes me as complete nonsense. Romantic sentimentality is the subtext of most hard-boiled fiction, especially the P.I.. subgenre. Chandler is probably one of the worst
"offenders" (but even the likes of Hemingway and Bukowski can be "accused" of it).

Marlowe is one of the great whiners of all time. Beneath his cynical, rough and tumble veneer beats the heart of a bruised romantic. It's what gives those books their heart and soul. I doubt we'd still be reading Chandler sixty years later just for the "plots."

Even Hammett's better work contains elements of a romantic sensibility, i.e. Spade's conflicted heart as he does the hard thing, turning in the woman he
"loves" for the murder of his partner in MALTESE FALCON. It hurts, but it's got to be done. Poor, tough, Sam. And Hammett is one of the LEAST sentimental of hard-boiled writers. As for those that came after Hammett: they may be hard-boiled on the outside, but the yoke is soft when the shell is peeled away. Scratch most cynics and a defeated romantic will do the bleeding.

If Ketchum, Garton, and Brite are romantics what are we to make of list favorites like Crumley, Pelecanos and Block? To say nothing of masters like Chandler, Cain and Macdonald.

Richard Stark seems to be one of the few writers that scrupulously avoids the romantic and sentimental in his Parker books. Although I haven't read the last few. Isn't Parker married now? Are the books softer because of this?


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