RARA-AVIS: British Noir - some roots

From: Etienne Borgers ( wbac1203@wanadoo.be)
Date: 21 Jul 2002

Peter Cheyney Speaking of noir in the UK, I think one has to remember this writer who pioneered in Britain the hard-boiled style directly inspired by American authors, and this as early as 1936. Of course Cheyney is no Hammett, far from it. Most of his books of the HB and slightly noir genre look like pastiches, and his writing in these novels is cheap to say the least; but he was one of the influent (and successful) writer of his time especially for the series with Lemmy Caution and Slim Callaghan. Some sides of Mike Hammer seem even to come from these characters. Cheyney did better books for the spy genre with his series of titles carrying the word "Dark" in them. But these were not as successful as the HB ones.

Good or bad, this author is one of the distant roots of Brit. Noir.

James Hadley Chase (Raymond Marshall was his second pseudonym) This British writer has to be remembered as well, in spite of all the negative aspects one may find to his work, going from plagiarism to hyperprolific production, with the use of ghost writers (more than rumors pretend Graham Greene was one of them for a couple of novels signed by JHC) and the standardization of the last part of his corpus. In spite of all this, Chase was an important and successful noir producer with some influence on writers that followed, at least with the novels he wrote at the beginning of his career (from the first one in 1939 until - roughly- 1950). He also wrote some very good "suspenses", with a dark and pessimistic ambiance, and a major book: 'Eve' (1945)- this one however is not really belonging to noir mysterey. I do not have an exact count, but at least 30 films were made from his novels. Even if Chase was sometime mimicking American writers, in his first novels, later he had a real influence of his own- at the time-, and therefore certainly belongs to the roots of Brit Noir.

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6384

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