RARA-AVIS: Re: Most Hard-Boiled?

From: jimdohertyjr ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 19 Dec 2006


Re your comments below:

> You spend a whole lot of your post setting up a contrast between
> definition of noir and mine. However, I never gave a definition.
I was
> contrasting yours with Duhamel's, not mine.

Come to think of it, that's true. You never have put it on the line and offered an alternative to mine. All you've ever done is complain about mine. You don't like mine? Offer an alternative that you think is better.
> "But, as mentioned above, the subject matter Duhamel describes isn't
> limited to noir or hard-boiled, so it must NOT be what defines noir
> hard-boiled."
> What's hardboiled got to do with this? Did Duhamel also publish a
> Hardboiled?

Noir and hard-boiled are inextricably linked. And I think you know it. But leaving that aside, take a look at the first hundred or so books Duhamel chose for the list. The include Hammett's THE MALTESE FALCON, THE DAIN CURSE, THE GLASS KEY, and RED HARVEST; Chandler's THE BIG SLEEP, FAREWELL MY LOVELY, THE HIGH WINDOW, and THE LADY IN THE LAKE; Latimer's THE LADY IN THE MORGUE, SOLOMON'S VINEYARD, and HEADED FOR A HEARSE; Raoul Whitfield's DEATH IN A BOWL and GREEN ICE; Frank Kane's SLAY RIDE; Henry Kane's A HALO FOR NOBODY; John D. MacDonald's THE BRASS CUPCAKE; Harold Q. Masur's BURY ME DEEP; Richard Sale's LAZARUS #7; and David Dodge's DEATH & TAXES. That's 20 percent of the first hundred books published under the Serie Noir logo. And a good chunk of the rest were by Englishmen masquerading as American hard-boiled writers like Peter Cheyney and James Hadley Chase.

Clearly, whatever Duhamel meant by noir, he did not mean something exclusive of hard-boiled.
> "If it's not what defines noir or hard-boiled, something else must
> the defining element.
> "I think that defining element is a dark and sinister atmosphere."
> However, a dark and sinister atmosphere is not limited to noir,
> As has been pointed out, numerous (the majority of? it's been a long
> time since I've read them) Sherlock Holmes mysteries are dark and
> sinister crime stories, as are Poe's. Any gothic with a crime in it
> would satisfy this definition. Dracula kills in a dark and sinister
> atmosphere, does that make Stoker's novel a noir? I'm currently
> Patrick Suskind's Perfume. It is certainly dark and sinister, and
> are murders, but I have trouble thinking of it as noir. Snoopy's
> is noir under this definition: "It was a dark and story night.
> Suddenly, a shot rang out. . . ."

If you want to include Holmes, and other Victorian mystery writers, who, I agree, often had dark and sinister elements, I won't object. Of course, Duhamel apparently specifically excluded Holmes, so apparently he isn't included. Fine.

I don't know anything about PERFUME, but based on your description, it sounds like it counts. Why do you think it doesn't? Tell me what you think noir is. What do you see as the common, defining elements? Offer an alternative.

> So even if your "dark and sinister" were common to all noirs (of
> wouldn't that rule out a lot of Florida noirs -- Willeford,
> etc -- that take place in the sunshine?), it is far from exclusive
to noirs.

I've already listed a Florida noir that was on Duhamel's "First 100", J.D.M.'s THE BRASS CUPCAKE. I've never excluded a particular state because the weather was nice, and I never said noir was a climactic description. I said it was about tone and atmosphere. Certainly a writer can use weather to imbue a work with that tone, but it's not the only way.

And you have yet to prove that there are mysteries dependent on a dark, sinister atmosphere that are NOT noir. All you've said is "They don't seem noir to me."

Okay, you may have made a touch (your first) with Holmes, but hard- boiled was a reaction to, and to some degree a reaction against, the type of mystery Conan Doyle wrote. And, to the degree that noir and hard-boiled are related, so was noir a reaction to it. But even Conan Doyle reacted to it, and to some degree against it, now and then. His most noir Holmes story, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, is atypical precisely BECAUSE of its dark, sinister tone. Maybe Duhamel might have made an exception. Of course, he seemed to be limiting himself to contemporary writers, so perhaps not.

Maybe "contemporary" is also a defining element.

> You argue that your definition is necessarily general to
> encompass all possible contenders. Isn't it too general if it
> those which are not contenders? At what point does a definition
> too general, too inclusive to be useful?

I'm not interested in being useful, at least not in that sense. The question, "What is noir?" came up. I offered an answer based on my observations about the common elements of the books and movies commonly given that appellation. I was interested in being accurate. If you think I'm inaccurate, tell me what you think would be more accurate.

But any definition that's so narrow that it insists that, for example, hard-boiled and noir are mutually exclusive, or that the protagonist is inevitably doomed, is not only TOO narrow, it excludes most of the first 100 books Duhamel published under his logo, and hence declared to be, noir.

I repeat, as I have many times before. If you don't like my definition, offer an alternative. Put your opinions on the line and be prepared to defend them the way you always insist that I defend mine.


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