> Hard Man, the book you're referring to, has a solitary blurb on the
> cover. It reads 'An Edinburgh festival of lip-smacking gruesomeness
> black comedy." ...At the very least, it surely indicates that there
> might be some
> humorous intent between the covers and indicates what form that
> humour might
My copy, if I recall correctly, was just a plain ARC with no artwork
or anything. I think there was something about "a brave new voice in
noir." Something like that. There wasn't any mention of silliness or
humour that I recall...
> Also, I ran a Hard Man blog at the time the book was released, which
> stated pretty clearly that the book was "Ultra-violent. Grand Guignol.
> Jacobean" in really big letters at the top of the page.
Sorry, didn't read that blog, so it wouldn't really matter how big the
letters were. Didn't know it was going to be on the final.
But now I know why at least three reviews I read used the exact same
> As for birthing 'silly noir', sorry, Eddie Muller squeezed that baby
> first. To be precise, he called the 'extreme noir' of Hard Man,
Hey, that works for me. "Slapstick-silly." Yeah, I like that.
> And I'm pretty sure Charlie Williams and myself ... concluded that
> 'absurd noir' or 'mad noir' might
> have more commercial appeal however.
Well, obviously. Gotta work "noir" in there somehow. It's applied to
everything from chocolate and beer to perfume and VANITY FAIR fashion
spreads. It might as well include this stuff as well, although much of
it has very very little to do with what I associate with noir.
"They kicked me off the haywagon at dawn and I shit myself. Then I
nail-gunned my mother, my sister and my father, all of whom I was
sleeping with. And then I cut off my own penis and Fed-Exed it to
By George, I think I've got it! 70,000 words more and I can play too.
And Mark wrote:
> I can't comment on Flexer's book, although I must admit this
> discussion has piqued my interest.
Yep. One reason I brought it up. The whole question of what has become
of noir (and we can't even agree on what it used to mean, never mind
now) interests me. Is it still noir? Or is it still noir just because
that's an effective way to market it?
There's so much of this stuff out there right now, it's hard to figure
out who wants their book to be taken seriously, and who wants their
book to be taken as a cartoon. And who wants their book to be taken
seriously even though their writing's unintentionally funny.
Sometimes absurd is absurd. And sometimes it's really just bad writing.
> However, Kevin, do you really think "silly noir" is something new?
Nah, of course not. People have been passing this stuff off as noir
for years. It's like TWILIGHT books or series romance for a certain
portion of the reading public. They can't get enough of it.
But don't mock and laugh at their cardboard characters or ridiculous
plots or their shock-and-awe excesses. Unless they tell you to.
> And is your problem with Flexer's contribution alone or the whole
> approach? I really can't tell.
I can't tell myself. Certainly, I see THE DISASSEMBLED MAN as part of
a trend, but I feel the constant attempts by those cashing in on that
trend to out do each other are tiresome. So I'm not sure if the
disappointment lies solely in Flexer's book or in the whole approach.
I wish they'd put as much effort into their characters as they put
into their rape and dismemberment fantasies, but the approach itself
is what really confuses me. Are they ridiculing one genre, or trying
to create a new one?
Or trying to write in a tradition they can't really pull off and so
resort to parody?
How many books can you write parodying the same sub-genre over and over?
(Although Flexer himself hasn't tried to dismiss his book by playing
the humour card -- at most he cops to "poking a little fun" at some of
the hard-boiled genre's cliches.)
I'm told something's noir, I sort of know what to expect. Or I used
to. But this stuff, with its obsessions with torture and mutilation
and excrement and and all that seems pretty far removed from what I
used to expect noir to be: dark, gritty, nuanced tales of people
circling the drain. Now it's a bad Saturday Night Live skit with the
June Taylor Dancers (and chainsaws).
Noir used to be about real or at least recognizable people, living
real or at least recognizable lives. Now a lot of what's being served
up as now is an academic intellectual exercise, deliberately peopled
with wildly exaggerated cartoon characters doing wildly exaggerated
I like the Marx Brothers and Monty Python and Tex Avery, and I like
hard-boiled and noir fiction, and I'll even cop to liking the
screwball antics of Jonathan Latimer, Richard Prather and some of
their literary descendants. But this stuff falls somewhere in between
all of them. And for me, most of the time, it falls flat.
Plus the self-involved self-consciousness seems a little weird to me
-- it's not books about real or at least recognizable people anymore, it's books making fun of books about real or at least recognizable people. Is it of the genre or about the genre?
As an aside, it's also curious to note that the characters (often
working class) in this sub-genre are often treated with a fair amount
of condescension by their (usually middle-class) authors. As if
earning minimum wage (or not being able to find work) automatically
reduces one's impulse control, sense of common decency and vocabulary.
And then it's all excused with allusions to things I have to dig out
my tattered copy of BENET'S READERS' ENCYCLOPEDIA or look up on Wiki
I'll certainly be looking at these lampoons with new eyes from now on.
I come across some piece of extreme silliness, I'll try to give it the
benefit of the doubt.
> Have you read Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy? Al's Hard Man?
> Charlie Williams's Deadfolk? Ken Bruen's Brant books? Or his Hard
> Case collaboratiosn with Jason Starr? Did you take them seriously?
> And those are just the newer examples. Steve Aylett, for example,
> has been doing it for a while. This is all qualitatively different
> from, say, Westlake's comic noirs. They are far more vulgar, far
> darker than those, but I certainly see them as comic noirs.
> Of course it can be done well or poorly.
Ah, but there's the rub. When it's done poorly, it's hard to tell if
it's supposed to be funny or not. What may be intentionally juvenile
but funny in one book may be just pandering to 14-year old boys in
another, if the writing isn't there. I've read HARD MAN (but not until
after everyone assumed I already had) and a few of those other guys. I
particularly enjoyed the Starr/Bruen collaborations, but it was
obvious they were supposed to be taken tongue-in-cheek. No blog was
If I was told to take them as dead-serious crime fiction, though, I
probably wouldn't have enjoyed them as much.
Who do you guys recommend as some of the best current writers of
Slapstick-Silly Extreme Noir?
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