Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: can noir writers advocate social reform?

From: Sandra Ruttan (
Date: 25 Nov 2006

On 11/24/06 9:29 AM, "Kerry J. Schooley" <> wrote:
> noir writers also recognize that reform
> is essentially impossible, or its benefits, at best, fleeting.

It is my opinion that noir writers actually do a better job of addressing social issues. My apologies if this sounds like bashing - these comments are generalizations not universal absolutes - but humourous mysteries, cozies... they don¹t have a realistic feel to me. There¹s a fundamental optimism that runs through some of them that I don¹t find believable. You know that the hero is always going to save the day, nothing too bad will ever happen to the main characters and the crimes are often treated lightly. They¹re bloodless, and a lot of times the pain is glossed over.

And how can you advocate for social reform, for change, if you never actually confront the issues?

Simon Kernick¹s The Business of Dying and A Good Day To Die are examples of books that made me think about situational ethics. About what it would be like, as a cop, to work day in and day out seeing criminals walk free. About the crimes the cops don¹t seem able to stop. Do we give criminals too many rights? Do we curtail the job the police can do by protecting the accused and guarding their rights, even at the potential expense of more victims? That's the train of thought prompted by books like those, and there's a push here to reduce the rights of criminals and give more rights to the cops. Whether the author intended it, their work may affect my thinking on that issue, and subsequently how I vote if it's important enough to me. And if you want to talk about combining noir, hardboiled and issues regarding social reform there¹s The Wire.

A lot of the noir I read raises issues. It doesn¹t provide answers, or if it does, it shows all the reasons why the solutions will never be implemented. That¹s realistic, and ultimately necessary.

Bear in mind a big part of the reason change doesn't happen is because people are comfortable with the way things are. They think things aren't so bad. Sometimes the only thing that makes people adjust their thinking is realizing how bleak a situation really is and that something needs to change.

Personally, I think the only way to really spark social change is to change the way people think. If reading Rankin¹s Fleshmarket Close makes me think about the way immigrants are treated, or reading Billingham¹s Lifeless makes me think about the discrimination against the homeless, and the result is that I adjust my behaviour, then that¹s where it begins. The author may or may not have an agenda, but it is my opinion that the best social commentary is coming out of crime fiction, in particular books that fall under the noir spectrum.

Sandra, who shall resume lurking

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