RARA-AVIS: Re: RIP John Gardner

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 16 Aug 2007


Re your questions below:

"The themes are noirish, almost non-transcendent by nature, but can the spy genre properly be called noir?"

A spy story is noir as long as it has a dark, sinister atmopshere.

"These characters, like James, James Bond, were licensed to kill. Where's the prerequisite crime?"

Cloak-and-dagger has been regarded as a sub-genre of crime fiction for almost as long as there's been a separate distinct genre of fiction devoted to crime. Going back to stories like Poe's "The Purloined Letter," Conan Doyle's "The Naval Treaty," "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, and "His Last Bow," etc.

Gallimard's Serie Noire included lots of spy stories on their list, including Cheyney's "Dark" series.

Standard references on noir invariably mention spy fiction. For example, THE BIG BOOK OF NOIR includes entire chapters on Donald Hamilton and THE KREMLIN LETTER, and Silver & Ward's FILM NOIR includes entries on BERLIN EXPRESS and THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET.

So spy fiction is, by common consensus, regarded as a sub-genre of crime fiction capable of being given a noir treatment.

"Does that make the [spy] genre noir or just some of the stories?"

A given sub-genre of crime fiction is never, by definition, noir. Nor hard-boiled for that matter. Only the specific treatment given to an individual story can make it noir. Or hard-boiled. Or both.


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