Re: RARA-AVIS: A Pig in the Mud (and my own sojourn in the mud and the blood)

Date: 10 Nov 2002

I've been impressed with your reading efforts too Miker. So much so that they've inspired me to attempt some similar cross decade stuff, albeit on a much less ambitious scale. Using the RA list and The TD website as guides I've sampled the following in the last couple of months that would correspond to this month and last month's RA themes: RED HARVEST - Dashiell HammettTHE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE - James M. CainTHEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY - Horace McCoyHEADED FOR A HEARSE - Jonathan Latimer Also, so far I'm in the middle of: THE BLACK MASK BOYS - anthology - William F. Nolan, editor(just completed the introductory section which is a brief history of the magazine, along with the section on Carroll John Daly and "Three Gun Terry" - the first hard boiled story/detective character, according to Nolan)and CRIME NOVELS - AMERICAN NOIR OF THE 1930's and 40's - the Library of America volume that includes the Cain and McCoy novels listed above, along with THIEVES LIKE US - Edward Anderson (I'm in the middle of this one)THE BIG CLOCK - Kenneth Fearing - yet to get toNIGHTMARE ALLEY - William Lindsay Gresham - dittoI MARRIED A DEAD MAN - Cornell Woolrich - ditto again I also read DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON, by George Orwell and a collection of Orwell's essays. While not technically hard boiled DAOIPAL is gritty and realistic and very readable. It gives one a really good look at the harshness of depression life, whether on a barely subsistence wage job (Paris) or from the view of a wandering hobo (London). It serves as a really good introduction to the CRIME NOVELS - 30's and 40's in the sense that it helps give a background to the noirish feeling of hopelessnes and desparation prevalent in those novels. In the collections of Orwell's ESSAYS he reviews a book which seems to be noir based on his description - NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (1939). In this novel a young woman is kidnapped, beaten and raped by the kidnap gang leader, rescued by police and detectives hired by her father (who kill the gang members in the process), but then commits suicide because she has grown to enjoy the treatment provided by her captor (or possibly s! he is pregnant by him). Orwell basically seems to dislike this type of novel, which he perceives as a "glamorization of crime" and unnecessarily brutal. He mentions that he is reminded of William Faulkner's SANCTUARY by the book. To me the anti-hero criminal protagonist and the decidedly downbeat ending seem similar in some ways to either THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and/or THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY?, leading me to wonder if Orwell ever read either of those novels and if so what his reaction was. Based on his negative comments regarding NOFMB and the type of novel he saw it as representing, I would venture to guess that he wouldn't have cared for either. At any rate, I went off on a tangent without meaning to. I'll try to lurk less and comment on some of the above novels as I finish them. I'm definitely interested in what the rest of you think about same. Steven Harbin

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