Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir Horror?

From: Bob Toomey (
Date: 09 Feb 2000

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?

Yeah, it's about as romantic as it gets. That's why I rate Hammett higher than Chandler -- but Chandler is still number two on my list. Hammett is less sentimental and, by my lights, more hardboiled. But even Hammett succumbed, most obviously in THE DAIN CURSE, where the Op became so soft that Hammett abandoned him. And THE GLASS KEY is pretty sentimental -- it's about a deep male friendship -- but this is concealed by the highly objective style in which it's written. Sam Spade is just as much a knight as Marlowe, but he isn't so obviously wearing a chastity belt and his heart on his sleeve. So -- attitude.

For purposes of discussion, I've staked out a fairly extreme position on issues that probably don't really matter, like trying to define what is or isn't hardboiled. This same problem existed years ago in science fiction, and Damon Knight resolved it, though not to everybody's satisfaction, by saying "Science fiction is what I'm pointing at." In other words, it's SF if we agree it's SF. So too with hardboiled -- it's hardboiled if we agree it's hardboiled. Thus I feel free to include non-fiction like Hunter Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VAGAS or a movie like Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY, and exclude novels like King's A BAG OF BONES or Lillian Braun's THE CAT WHO CAME TO BREAKFAST.


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