Re: RARA-AVIS: Who changed the noir writing ?

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 13 Mar 2007

At 05:56 PM 13/03/2007, you wrote:

>Hmm, re Elmore Leonard, I don't see how he can't be considered a
>major innovator. I actually see him as THE major innovator of the
>past thirty years. Though I wouldn't consider Leonard a noir writer
>(to me his major books are pure crime fiction), I think he picked up
>on what George V. Higgins did, with dialogue-driven, character-
>driven, vernacular-driven crime fiction, and took it to another

And a slightly different location and context.

I agree with you that Leonard is not a noir writer, but he brought hardboil to the middle classes. His is a more middle-class perspective on the genre, and the protagonists, as in Kill Shot, can themselves be average, middle-class folks whose lives intersect with more hardboiled characters. With Chilli Palmer in Get Shorty, we had a protagonist trying to move from the world of crime to middle-class respectability and finding there was just as much questionable behaviour in the movie business as in loan sharking, though perhaps not always competently handled. And settings are quite varied, but not usually what you could call the mean streets of American cities. More likely to be a shopping mall or beach-front condo.

Still, this is no longer a recent innovation, unless we're talking geologically.

> Leonard also is an outstanding plotter, an aspect of writing
>that I think is ignored, or taken for granted, by many critics. I
>think it takes at least as much to skill to craft a great plot as it
>does to craft a great sentence, and Leonard is a genius at both.

Yeah, many "literary" critics prefer authors use internal dialogue to reveal characters as opposed to action and plot. It has the advantage of allowing the author to make definitive statements about motivation etc. as they spell things out for those critics. Saves any second guessing later on.

Best, Kerry

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