Re: RARA-AVIS: Everything's Noir?

From: Jeff Vorzimmer (
Date: 19 May 2007

> My definition is pretty narrow. If there's no downward spiral too hell,
> if there's no psychic damage and sense of doom, it's not noir. Quoting
> Eddie Muller's definition of noir (as taken from Ken Bruen's foreward
> for a new edition of Miami Purity), "starts bad and gets worse." That's
> noir. At least that's my narrow definiton. And very little of what's
> called noir today has a resemblance to noir (at least to me). Russell
> Hill's "Robbie's Wife" is noir, Seymour Shubin's "Anyone's My Name" is
> noir (yeah, okay, it was written 50 years ago, but we've been
> discussing it recently)

I agree with this definition. WIth noir there is a sense of doom hanging over the main character. From the first page of Anyone's My Name, you know the character is doomed to the electric chair, so much so that I can understand readers not finishing it.

In noir fiction, the lives of the main characters seem to spiral out of control, usually because of bad decisions compounded by even more bad decisions. This is a hallmark of Charles Williams' and Gil Brewer's novels for example and contemporary writers such as Jason. You see the decisions the characters make and you cringe and you watch as they loose complete control of their own lives.

Even with someone like Spillane, whose stories don't quite fit this mold, their is a sense with each Mike Hammer book, e.g., that this time Hammer is doomed. It's either Hammer or the bad guy. Of course, Hammer always prevails.


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