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

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 13 Mar 2007

How do you define "Classic Noir"?

When does it stop being "Classic" and start being "contemporary"? Megan Abbott's THE SONG IS YOU is told from different POVs (with one predominating) but it's set in LA of the early 1950s. "Classic" or "contemporary"? She published it this year.

I think it's possible to get carried away with labels.

As for "depth of character" in "classic noir", if you're talking about Hammett and Chandler, I think you are dead wrong in your assertion that they scrimp on character examination. And then there's Ross MacDonald: deep, deep, DEEP characters. Or, because he's a little later, does his work not fall under the header of "classic noir"?


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Tim Wohlforth
  Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 11:53 AM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Who changed the noir writing ?

  Of course taste in writing varies so I will concentrate on what I
  felt was innovative about the book. In the first place is its scope.
  It is a tale of three boys and what happens to them later in life.
  This is set against the changing background of the gentrification of
  two Boston neighborhoods. The book is told in the three voices of the
  main characters while classic noir generally stuck to a single voice.
  The characters are developed at considerable depth, perhaps more than
  some who are used to faster paced thinner books would prefer. Yet,
  again, this is innovative, not when compared to other contemporary
  writing but when contrasted to classic noir. Thus, while telling a
  personal story, it also is a commentary on our times. It is a novel
  in the fullest meaning of that word.

  For an example of another tragic novel, this one from Britain, take a
  look at "A Place of Execution" by Val McDermid. It is by far her best
  book and in its own way also a contemporary classic. Again she
  captures a time period and a special place, really a kind of time
  warp place.

  My point is not that these are the only "great" noir novels of our
  time. I bring them up to illustrate a kind of writing and scope now
  taking place in the noir field that distinguishes it from classic
  noir. Nor is my point necessarily that these writers are better than
  the noir pioneers. But they are more than copycats.


  On Mar 13, 2007, at 11:17 AM, Jacques Debierue wrote:

> --- In, Tim Wohlforth
> <timwohlforth@...> wrote:
> > Character/description: Lehane's Mystic River, arguably the finest
> > contemporary crime novel.
> >
> Mmmm, I had trouble finishing that one. I didn't find anything
> original in it. The sense of deja
> vu was overpowering. I don't understand the praise for this book.
> Best,
> MrT

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