Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler's "Noir Feel" for LA (was Denise Hamilton)

Date: 13 May 2004


Re your question below:

> Not intending to crank up an argument, I'm curious,
> Jim. I recently reread
> an old short story by Manly Wade Wellman set in the
> 1800s. A sea captain of
> a slave ship, in order to avoid being caught with
> contraband slaves on board
> by a British man-of-war, orders the slaves shacked
> to the anchor chain. He
> drops anchor and the slaves go overboard with it.
> No more evidence. Years
> later, back in the Carolinas in his home, he is
> visited by the monstrous
> fish-eaten ghostly carcasses of the slaves he sent
> overboard, who surround
> his home and drive him mad.
> It's possibly the darkest, most sinister atmosphere
> of anything I've ever
> read.
> Does that make it noir?

"Noir" impplicitly means a story that falls into the crime fiction genre. Wellman certainly wrote mysteries. Is this story a mystery or a supernatural horror story, or a cross-genre piece?

In any case, that precise scene was used in a 1948 film noir, TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, in which Dick Powell starred as a federal narc on the trail of an international heroin ring. The scene was updated so that it was illegal Chinese slave labor rather than African slave labor, but the method of murder was preciesly the same.

So it certainly doesn't make it NOT noir.


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