Re: RARA-AVIS: Early Noir

From: Edward Pettit (
Date: 20 May 2007

At NoirCon 2008, one of the things Robert Polito and I are going to explore, via the author George Lippard, are the noirish elements of city crime novels in the 19th Century. Lippard's The Quaker City is not noir, but it shares a dark, hopeless sensibility with 20th century noir. Everyone in the novel is a villain, everyone is involved in crime.
  Although there is no caged Jesus in the basment, Al, there is still lots of grim stuff that goes on in the vaults of Monk-Hall.
  The Quaker City, or the Monks of Monk-Hall, now an online serial
  NoirCon 2008

Allan Guthrie <> wrote:
          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.


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