Re: RARA-AVIS: willie or not

From: Patrick King (
Date: 07 Dec 2006

You raise some interesting points. But note, the great hardboiled and noir writers seldom mention religion. Their morality is more obvious than high-falutin mysticism. Also, referencing specific belief systems was death to publishers until very recently, especially in genre literature. In fact it may still be. Chesterton and Green are the only two I can think of who broke that rule yet were more or less
"successful." The sexual dynamic in Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, and Cain is very interesting. You drew several points from Falcon. Note that with the exception of Spade, all the other major male figures in the novel are various stereotype homosexuals. That's how they avoid Bridget's clutches! Chandler's world is full of alcoholics, drug addicts, pornographers, sexual sadists, phoney psychics, and women with serious psychological damage. All of Cain's novels are about sex mania. Serenade, probably his most interesting on many levels, was way over the top when he wrote it. It deals with the sexual dynamic in art and commerce. The protagonist is bi-sexual and totally confused on that fact. That he regains his sexual and artistic ability in an abandoned church during a desert flash flood adds to the symbolism. Serenade would make a great movie and today one could film it without pulling punches. Personally, being neither mystical nor superstitious, I don't see religion per se being that significant to these works. I'm sure one can and probably has written Zen or Buddhist "noir" novels. Yokio Mishima, for instance and Kawabatta. It's about common sense: If lust leads to theft and murder, you're probably going to have problems in any society whatever religion prevails in it. No culture puts up with this kind of behavior. One of the most tragic "noir" characters is Pat in Recoil. This guy is genuinly trying to do well but he can't extricate himself from his lousey fate. While he's not a stupid character, and, in fact, he's very street smart, he's not clever enough to see through the people who simply can't help him and will ultimately destroy him.

Patrick King

--- Frederick Zackel <> wrote:

> I have been lurking during this discussion of
> transcendence, and I kept
> wanting to bring up religion. I don't know how you
> can mumble about Western
> Civ and any element of it without bringing up
> religion's 3000-year
> overwhelming stranglehold.
> So, methinks, a noir protagonist thinks with his
> willie, and that dooms him.
> Noir is about morality. The inevitability is, well,
> judgment day. I look
> at noir writers and I see religion oozing from them
> like January maple
> syrup. Hammett was a former Catholic, Cain was a
> gloating Catholic,
> Spillane created the Hammer of God, and so forth.
> Hammett created Spade, a blonde devil. Spade is also
> Sisyphus before Camus
> tinkered with the myth. The Falcon begins with Spade
> in his office and ends
> with Spade in his office. Spade's only moment of
> freedom is sending Brigit
> over. Archer was doomed; he thought with his
> willie. Spade can transcend
> his willie. Brigit counted upon Spade being just
> another guy thinking with
> his willie.
> Hammett, a fallen-away Catholic, dead-stops the
> Falcon so that Spade tells
> the story of Flitcraft. Flitcraft is a human who
> encounters Random Chance
> in a universe he thought was orderly. (That's what
> Hammett's daughter says
> about Flitcraft in her biography of her dad, by the
> way.) There is no
> Intelligent Design. There is no Prime Mover. The
> Universe is Random Chance.
> Spade, the gambler, casting his lot with the drop of
> the cards. (Einstein
> said God doesn't play dice with the universe; Spade
> says, yeah, it's the
> fall of the dice.) Spade could be telling Brigit HE
> is her Falling Beams,
> or he could be telling her SHE is his Falling Beams.
> Works both ways, eh?
> Imagine Sisyphus with a gun.
> Could there be a Hindu noir novel? A Buddhist noir
> novel? Or only from the
> Son of Abraham? What is the impact of religion? As
> for the politics, oh, I
> think the role of politics in noir is a red-herring.
> God, I'm glad I got all this out of me.
> Fred Zackel
> author of Cocaine & Blue Eyes
> c/o Point Blank Press
> "They are too fast, too quick, they rip our flesh
> off, rip our arms off.
> Sometimes it starts with just one. Sometimes they
> come in a pack. They
> smell blood and meat, and they rush in and join in.
> There are so many of
> them everywhere, patroling, cruising, taking,
> killing." ~ Voltaire

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