RARA-AVIS: Preparing for the 20's and 30's

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 10 Sep 2002

Man, I am just whupping heck outa them 20's and 30's books! Of course, it helps that most of them are less than 200 pages long. haha.

I've come to the conclusion that there just aren't a lot of pre-1930's hardboiled/noir novels. Hardboiled got its beginning as short stories in pulp maganzines, didn't it? According to George Upper, Daly had out a hardboiled short story in 1922, and near as I can tell, the first hardboiled novel, SNARL OF THE BEAST, didn't come out til 1927. Well, I've read Daly's SNARL and Burnett's LITTLE CAESAR, and I can add that to the 20's stuff I read a while ago, like Hammett's RED HARVEST and
(if we are being liberal with the hardboiled definition) Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES and A FAREWELL TO ARMS. I think I might just break down and read Hammett's DAIN CURSE. About the only novel that leaves for the 20's is Daly's HIDDEN HAND, which I'll probably pass on for now.

For the 30's I finished Faulkner's SANCTUARY about a week ago. Faulkner's style of avoiding writing a lot of the key scenes of violence and slowly feeding the reader clues throughout the rest of the book to find out what happened doesn't really appeal to me. Even the scenes he writes are sometimes hard to figure out. But the book is still kickass. The sick sexual abuse in there is really shocking. I have no idea how he ever got away with that. Well, yes I do. He gets away with it by not explicitly describing what happens, but instead just slowly passing clues so that the reader eventually figures it out. Nevertheless, in the end it is obvious what happened. I've never read anything that nasty from that early, and this is three years before Cora and Frank's violent sexual encounters in Cain's POSTMAN. I wonder if Faulkner cleared the path for Cain?

And of course I just finished a fun Perry Mason book. I've just started Whitfield's GREEN ICE at home. And I've got O'Hara's APPOINTMENT TO SAMARRA waiting on me. I'll probably read some Nathanael West and Erskine Caldwell too. I've ordered Paul Cain's FAST ONE twice now from Abebooks, and both times the order has been cancelled. Same thing happened with the GALLOWS title that Al recommended.

And just to get this straight, we did agree that there were absolutely no women writing hardboiled/noir pre- 1940, right? Part of my plan for this time-wise examination of hardboiled/noir is to read the early female authors. I haven't read any women authors for so long I'm feeling guilty. Through all your great advice, I've got Craig Rice's TRIAL BY FURY, Vin Packer's DAMNATION OF ADAM BLESSING, and Vera Caspary's LAURA waiting for the right decade to pop up. Dorothy Hughes's IN A LONELY PLACE and RIDE A PINK HORSE is on the way.


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