RARA-AVIS: Re: Cain and Hammett

From: Raymond Tait ( raymond.tait@cai.cam.ac.uk)
Date: 03 Oct 2007

I hesitate to offer something up but it seems to me that noir is essentially a tragic form and the chief protagionist(s) will generally come to a bad end because of some weakness or terrible mistake or something like that. In general PI novels do not operate like this and whether or not the actions of the PI are wholly good or a bit murky they are not tragic in the traditional sense. Some more modern books have muddied the waters a bit here because of the extent to which the PI character's private life has come to the foreground and terrible things happen to them because of mistakes and choices they have made. An example is James Lee Burke's series. But even there I think you will find in most of his novels there is another character who is the more truly tragic figure and who comes to a bad end in the way of Hamlet or Macbeth or Othello.

I would say if you are making a case for The Maltese Falcon as a noir novel then Brigid is the character to focus on rather than Sam Spade. If Spade was a true noir character he would have gone down with her somehow.

Apologies if all this seems very obvious.


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