RARA-AVIS: Re: Slapstick-Silly Noir

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 19 Jun 2009

  • Next message: Charlie Williams: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Slapstick-Silly Noir"

    I'm not particularly interested in a tit for tat exchange with Dave (sorry, Dave), but I did want to point out that although he says he didn't think Nate Flexer's book was intended as humour, Dave's back cover blurb was actually the only one of five or so that did actually suggest it was humourous, likening it to Bruce Jay whatsisname.

    I'm not sure id that means anything, but now that people are actually discussing the whole humour/noir/parody convergence -- and it turns out Dave even sorta maybe agrees with me -- I'm pretty happy.

    And Charlie wrote:

    "I took part in a panel in Paris a few weeks ago on this subject (the humour in noir side anyway, along with Colin Bateman and Colin Thibert). The consensus was that a bit of humour sugars the pill. Without humour, you might end up with a bleak novel that isn't enjoyable. Include humour and you can strike a balance. When the worst kind of shit happens in life, the funny side is what we often see. The absurd side.

    Like someone said here, the humour often just slips out."

    That's one thing. But some of what's being written isn't a matter of humour slipping out. The whole thing is written, it seems, as intentional parody, with noir being shoved in. Or at least parody is the excuse given when someone points out the unrealistic or exaggerated nature of much of the proceedings.

    Charlie again:

    "I would probably be a bit wary of an author who claimed to set out to write a funny noir book."

    Which is why, I think, so few of them mention humour initially, and it's rarely mentioned as a big selling point in blurbs (Al's HARD MAN being an exception, evidently). They like to be thought of as writing tough, hard-boiled stories, not Pythoneque parody. Among the faithful, they'd rather be compared to Jim Thompson than John Cleese.But the parody defense is always close by, just in case.

    Phrases like "extreme noir" or "psycho noir" or "cutting edge" noir are more likely to be splashed across the cover than words like "slapstick" or
    "cartoonish" or "a wild romp." Even though the latter may be just as
    (or even more) truthful.

    Oh, and for those of you who seem so concerned I may have hurt poor little first-time writer Nate's feelings, evidently both Flexer and his publisher aren't quite the delicate and easily bruised types some may have feared -- they actually seem pretty okay with my comments or at least the publisher has asked me to review another of New Pulp Press' books.

    My, won't that be fun?

    It's actually refreshing to meet new talents with that attitude. It bodes well for their future.


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