Re: RARA-AVIS: Woody Haut (was Thompson)

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 07 Nov 2004

Jeff Vorzimmer wrote:

The very first page I ever read of Woody Haut (Pulp Culture) referred to Joe McCarthy as the senator from Minnesota. To me this didn't bode well for the facts in the rest of the book. Such a obvious blunder on the first page is usually enough for me to stop reading right there, but I persevered a bit, but the factual mistakes just piled up and I eventually tossed it aside.

************* I found his lack of attention to the accuracy of the details disconcerting, but my big complaint was that his main thesis, that hardboiled and noir between 1945 and 1960 are driven by the peculiar paranoia of the Cold War, to be weak. In many places Haut damaged his case with far-reaching declarations leaning towards absurd. His parallel between Homes's BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH and the ongoing communist witch hunt:

"Here Bailey aligns himself with those working against the social order. His situation was not unlike that of the 6.6 million people who, between March 1947 and December 1952, would be investigated for alleged communist links."

In Haut's eyes, Fearing's THE BIG CLOCK and Gresham's NIGHTMARE ALLEY are mirrors of Cold War paranoia. He suggests that characters in Thompson, Goodis, and McCoy novels act badly because they are "faced with cultural apprehensions regarding the 'Red Menace' and nuclear devastation..." I find the connection tenuous.

My biggest objection to PULP CULTURE is that rather than take an honest and unflinching look at the material and allow it to lead where it will, I suspect him of bending the works to fit a personal political agenda. At best this is self-serving, at worst it is dishonest.

Slipping off the soap box and shuffling back to Jeff's comment about the many inaccuracies, I quote from PULP CULTURE:

"In THE BIG SLEEP, Philip Marlowe bemoans the fact that he's had no business in a month, only to receive
$100 merely for taking Marriott's money to a designated spot where he's to exchange it for some precious stones."


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 07 Nov 2004 EST