Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir panel at LCC

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 07 Feb 2007

I also attended this panel, and would like to comment on it.

The Positive:

Megan Abbott, Con Lehane, Edward Wright, and Cornelia Read. If these folks are a cross-section of the faces of hard-boiled/noir writing today, the genre and its legacy are in good hands. Cornelia Read struck me as a cross between Bette Davis on her toughest day and Gerald Mohr on his roughest (voiced) one. Megan Abbott's sweet face and gentle demeanor bely the heart of a Woolrich. Con Lehane is as eloquent as he is hirsute, and Edward Wright definitely has me curious about his own personal take on 1940s Los Angeles. Lastly were the questions from the audience (except for mine, an admitted (and joking) softball to my friend Megan Abbott about her book cover and Gloria Grahame modeling for it), especially the one opening up the line of discussion about the existence of a particular type of humor in hard-boiled/noir writing.

The Mediocre:

Some of the questions posed by the moderator were so long-winded and confusing that both panelists and audience had trouble deciphering what the question actually WAS. However, the panelists still managed to say something interesting and entertaining once they were able to unravel the knot, as it were. Also, there was the fact that Tim garbled Con Lehane's name three or four times in a row during his introduction, and then repeatedly stumbled over the title of his first book: "Beware the Solitary Drinker." I don't think the audience was ever really introduced to him properly. The denizens of this list, who have every reason to know Con's prowess both as a writer and as a first-class gentleman know what a potential loss that is. To his credit, Mr Lehane did not seem fazed by this, and handled himself with good humor and professionalism, providing several thoughtful comments during the ensuing conversation.

The Negative:

Sorry to say, there were several aspects of this panel that I found incredibly disappointing. Not least of these was a reference that I can only assume was intended to be a joking one by Mr. Wohlforth to Ken Bruen, a writer referenced frequently (and positively) on this list. Mr. Wohlforth characterized Bruen as some sort of over-aged "hanger-on" of the "coattails" of the Young Turks (Neil Smith, Victor Gischler, et. al.) who helmed PLOTS WITH GUNS during its brief run on the web. It didn't come across as a joke. It came across as a nasty jab at a good writer and a swell fellow. I wasn't the only one in the audience who took it that way.

In this same vein, much hay was made of the contributions of both PLOTS WITH GUNS and its spiritual descendant, THUGLIT to the current state of noir/hardboiled writing. While recognizing the contributions these two web entities have made to the genre, I think their importance was over-stated by Mr. Wohlforth when he referenced them. Because they were referenced as part of a bizarre and rambling monologue given by Mr. Wohlforth in the middle of the discussion, and no panelist was really given much of a chance to respond to these comments, the reference came across as a part of a pretty blatant act of shameless self-promotion (It is my understanding that Mr. Wohlforth has been published in both of these entities. Would that make *him* the sort of "hanger-on" which he "jokingly" accused Mr. Bruen of being?). Mr. Wohlforth did this sort of thing several times over the course of the hour, especially toward the end of the session. All roads seemed to come right back to him and
  his work.

Unfortunately, that is not the role of the moderator, at least not as I understand it. In fact, he's supposed to be there to keep that sort of thing from getting out of hand. I take no pleasure in mentioning this. I simply felt compelled to point out the fact that the view that Mr. Keenan expressed of the panel session in his initial post on the subject was not shared by many who participated in the same session.

Overall I enjoyed the panel session, particularly the contributions of the various panelists, and the questions from the audience. But a more focused direction of the discussion, without the moderator repeatedly inserting himself into the dialogue without either basis or justification would have contributed to the overall strength of the session.

Your Mileage May Vary.

All the Best-

Brian Thornton

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Vince Keenan
  Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 12:16 AM
  Subject: RARA-AVIS: Noir panel at LCC

  Just wanted to commend Tim Wohlforth on the fine job he did chairing the panel on noir at Left Coast Crime in Seattle this weekend. He had a strong group of writers to work with in Megan Abbott, Con Lehane, Cornelia Read and Edward Wright. A nice range of topics were discussed -- the flexible definition of the term, the connection with film noir, the influence of online journals like Plots With Guns and Thuglit, the role humor plays in the genre. Tim even got the weather to cooperate so that it was suitably overcast when the proceedings started. Nicely done.Vince Keenanwww.vincekeenan.comPop culture, high and low, past and present.One day at a time.
  Get connected - Use your Hotmail address to sign into Windows Live Messenger now.

  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 07 Feb 2007 EST