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

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 14 May 2004

At 07:15 AM 14/05/2004 -0700, you wrote:

>Since, under Duhamel's (the guy who coined the
>term)umbrella , "noir" spreads pretty wide, covering
>Hammett and Chandler as well as Cain and Woolrich, it
>follows that the common elements have to be something
>that can include the hard-boiled heroics of
>Chandler/Hammett, the tragic fatefulness of Cain, and
>the claustrophobic paranoia of Woolrich.

All of these attitudes expressed at least in part, I believe, by the outlooks and behaviours of their characters. I might even say they are characteristics of their protagonists.

But I'd agree with you that noir and hardboil, though often appearing in tandem, are not the same thing. The protagonists' approach and behaviour may fit a story into the category of hardboil, but those same characteristics may be compared and/or contrasted with the moral atmosphere in which the protagonist operates. Spade and Marlowe may have something of the romantic optimist about them, but they still do battle with the forces of evil.

That alone does not make the story noir, however. 101 Dalmations is a crime story (dognapping, if not a crime, surely ought to be) with ample dark and sinister atmospherics and it may even fit our time-lines, but it is not noir. Disney assures us that in the end, good triumphs over evil. The dark and sinister forces have, for the time being at least, been held at bay. But Marlowe's world-weariness, and Spade's laugh at the end of their adventures suggest that, though their cases may be solved, the moral challenge continues unabated. This is even foreshadowed by tragic flaws within the protagonists' own personalities. I believe it is this outcome that ultimately makes the Chandler/Hammett stories fit the category of noir, though Hammett more definitively than Chandler ("down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean" - Spade is definitely a meanie.)

Best Kerry

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

# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 14 May 2004 EDT