Re: RARA-AVIS: Early Noir

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 20 May 2007

THE BASTARD is a non-investigative novella about a guy, Gene Morgan, who's a literal and figurative bastard. We're told his mother, a prostitute, had to be tied to a tree to avoid killing him with a steak mallet when he was born. He doesn't like her much (surprise, surprise), but when a guy shows him naked pictures of her (it's definitely her: 'there too was her left breast, nippleless where some drunken horseman had severed it with his teeth') our non-sympathetic-but-vastly-engaging protagonist fires 'three slugs of steel-jacketed lead into the stranger's lungs.' That's all on page one. There's a lot of extremely transgressive behaviour thereafter.

BODIES ARE DUST is a superb novel about a corrupt cop who deliberately gets his best friend killed and marries the deceased's wife. But it's not a procedural -- in fact, in NOIR FICTION, Paul Duncan calls it a 'devastating use of domestic melodrama'. Stylistically, it's Hammett -- , but it sinks into a level of emotional pain that's rare even for the likes of Goodis. Makes your eyes bleed and your appendix explode, so take care when reading. Until I just looked up the entry in NOIR FICTION, I didn't think it had been reprinted, but it was, in 1960 as HELL COP.

Are they hardboiled crime novels? They're both full of various crimes and are written in a tough and colloquial manner, so I guess so. They're also noir.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Jeff Vorzimmer
  Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2007 4:42 PM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Early Noir

> Burnett's criminal-as-protagonist LITTLE CAESAR (1929) could be called
> noir,
> and if Caldwell's THE BASTARD (1929) and Wolfson's BODIES ARE DUST
> (1931) aren't noir, I'll eat my underwear.

  But are they hardboiled crime novels such as Red Harvest and Little Caesar?
  I'm asking I've not read either books.



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