RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir, etc

From: Dave (
Date: 16 Feb 2003

Frank "Dolly" Dillon from Thompson's 'Hell of a Woman' fits the
"screwed" definition, as does "Kid" Collins from 'After Dark, My Sweet' and to some degree Carl Bigelow from 'Savage Night'. To me, literary noir, instead of the protagonist being "screwed" is instead "doomed". The doomed aspect can be physical or psychic. To me, the perfect example of noir is 'Double Indemnity'. When Walter Huff crosses the line and commits murder, his doom is sealed. It might not be apparent right away, but it's inevitable. In "Name of the Game is Death" by Dan Marlowe (one of my favorite noir books), the protagonist is doomed from page 1 (like many of Thompson's characters). And just to confuse things even more, has anyone here looked at "A Century of Noir" edited by Mickey Spillane and Max Collins? I picked it up recently to plow through during a long flight, and at most 10 of the 32 stories were what I'd even remotely consider noir. They seemed to open up the definition to any crime story with shadows or any dark characters. Some of the stories had happy endings, some were what I'd consider pure hard-boiled, and some fit more with the Henry Slesar type of twist ending. The book did have a terrific noir story by David Goodis
(The Plunge), a good one by Mickey Spillane (Tomorrow I Die) and a couple of pretty good ones by Evan Hunter and Chester Himes, and some good non-noir stories by Carroll John Daly, Donald Westlake, Norbert Davis, Frederic Brown, and a few others. All in all I don't think it was worth it, and definitely not if you're actually looking for noir.


-----Original Message----- From: [mailto:] On Behalf Of Al Guthrie Sent: Sunday, February 16, 2003 3:40 PM To: Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir, etc

Thinking about "screwed" as a definition, I've concluded that it only works as a psychological term. As far as external events are concerned,
"screwed" isn't necessarily noir. An optimist can be repeatedly "screwed" without batting a noir eyelid (Candide or Earl Swagger in Pale Horse Coming, for example). Come to think of it, being repeatedly "screwed" and not giving a damn is pretty hardboiled. "Screwed" and thinking the whole world's out to get you, that's one aspect of noir. But it isn't that simple. Jim Thompson's psychopaths don't fit the "screwed" definition, but they're sure as hell noir. They do fit the "psychological horror" definition. Surely one of the most obvious links between Thompson's psychopaths and Goodis's paranoids is abnormal psychology. And those books we really enjoy, but aren't quite noir? Maybe the protagonist is too sane? I don't know. I'm merely speculating.


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