RE: RARA-AVIS: Murderous geniuses

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 06 Apr 2004

At 06:37 AM 06/04/2004 +0800, you wrote:
>I'm not sure if Lou from The Killer Inside Me counts as a genius, though I'd
>like to mention it anyway since it's my choice for our new theme.
>When I think of murderous geniuses, I think of films, actually, especially
>the original version of The Vanishing.

I'm not sure this is a topic related to noir and hardboiled fiction, whether in movies or text.

Psychological mysteries carry many of the trappings of our genre (dark and spooky, or something like that,) but in the end, like earlier churches, psychology is the enabling institution for our faith in science and technology. The validity of genius has been discredited, I believe, by its evident cultural specificity, but it is still politically useful. In the end, it's a bunch of guys saying "Here are the things (especially abstract things) that we do well. If you can't do them too, then you're dumb and can have the hard, physical jobs that we don't want, or you can be drugged, or institutionalized, or written off entirely." Better to define the dumb when they're young so the mandate can be fulfilled.

Okay, this is one of the mules I choose to whip. But the notion of a criminal genius defines someone with all the skills to fit in and prosper among the dominant culture, yet for some reason this person rejects the culture's espoused values. That reason is usually implied, or even stated as the psychological equivalent of "evil". Catch the evil monster, exterminate it and all is right with the world. That's not my idea of noir
(though I am given to understand some may disagree with my definitions.)

It's the same reason I don't think of most serial-killer fiction as noir. I suppose stylistically it could be hardboiled, but even that goes against the grain. There's something too democratic about the genre to allow its heros and villains to be so easily categorized. Hardboil is more likely to view the geniuses from the POV of the rejected, and question the differences between espoused values and human behaviour.

I dunno. Spade and Gutman both seemed to be reasonably smart guys to me. I can't think of Silence of the Lambs as noir. Not so sure about Hitchcock's Rope, though. Iceberg Slim laid claim to a genius IQ, but Pimp is not fiction, if we're still putting our faith in official categorizations.

Best Kerry

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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