Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Slapstick-Silly Noir

From: J.C. Hocking (
Date: 17 Jun 2009

  • Next message: J.C. Hocking: "Re: RARA-AVIS: my Charles Williams mini-marathon"

    Great post, even though it made me want to find the aged author of that supercilious TIME magazine review of Horace McCoy's KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE and shake him till he rattled.

    --- On Wed, 6/17/09, Allan Guthrie <> wrote:

    From: Allan Guthrie <> Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Slapstick-Silly Noir To: Date: Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 4:15 PM

    I'm not so sure I agree with the basic premise, gents.

    I don't think "over-the-top" noir is a current trend. Pushing the boundaries has always been part of the genre. In Caldwell's THE BASTARD, 1929, someone is sawn in half. If that isn't our first introduction to the modern noir novel, then it's second only to LITTLE CAESAR. James Cain was accused of being over the top, taken to court for it in the case of SERENADE, and Chandler famously took Cain's excesses to task, and even Cain's publisher had reservations ("A surprising number of people in the book trade really dislike the book intensely -- think it shocking, that it oversteps the line of what is permissible to deal with in fiction" -- from a letter from Knopf referring to THE BUTTERFLY). Horace McCoy was given a serious ass-kicking for KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE -- for example, Time Magazine, May 10th, 1948:
    "Literary Caveman Horace McCoy has driven to an absurd extreme the hardboiled, feel-my-muscles style of James Cain and Dashiell Hammett, and, to add cultural tone, has dipped into the bowely bathos of the wasn't-Bix-wonderfu l, oh-blow-that- beautiful- horn school. The result is a gutter-minded, gutter-tongued shocker of alley-cat sex, sadism and unmourned murders." Jim Thompson is famous for being over the top ("The guy was over the top. The guy was absolutely over the top. Big Jim didn't know the meaning of the word stop." -- Stephen King); and what about Spillane? Ted Lewis's GBH? Derek Raymond's I WAS DORA SUAREZ? It's hard to think of a seminal noir writer who wasn't pushing boundaries, breaking taboos, being extreme, whatever you might choose to call it.

    And Mark, re ready-made for cinema: I agree, sort of. Certainly writers these days almost all think in terms of 'scenes' rather than chapters. And we're advised to 'show' rather than 'tell' (ie action-based, like a movie). But in that respect, I don't think anything comes close to Hammett. His books were ready made for the movies. And James Cain wasn't far behind. Btw, as someone who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation for Duane's WHEELMAN, although it was a lot of fun, it was far from straightforward. I suspect that part of the reason his books are such attractive movie material is because they're all very high concept. As well as being fast and outrageously imaginative and full of surprise and suspense, etc, etc.


    ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mark Sullivan" <DJ-Anonyme@webtv. net>
    > I think that's a pretty good summary, Dave. But I think the influence is
    > far more film than graphic novels (I know, you weren't pointing to them as
    > influence, but as a reference point). I see it as following in
    > Tarantino's wake, whether the authors are directly influenced by his films
    > or the publishers recognized there might be a market in that type of
    > material. For instance, Duane's Severance Package (and The Blonde,
    > probably The Driver, too) seem ready made for film adaptation.
    > I enjoy some of these overblown books very much (Duane's and those I
    > mentioned in previous posts), but it would be a real shame if it
    > overshadowed and crowded out the more gritty, realistic noir.
    > Mark


    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 17 Jun 2009 EDT