Re: RARA-AVIS: greatest noir or detective protags

From: Stephen Burridge (stephen.burridge@gmail.com)
Date: 04 Aug 2009

  • Next message: Jack Bludis: "RARA-AVIS: Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice"

    I think my idea of hardboiled fiction is pretty much the conventional one. See for example this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardboiled.

    Your discussion of Hannay is accurate to some extent with respect to "The Thirty-Nine Steps", in which he has recently arrived in London and knows no one. However, he acts as much out of patriotism as anything else. In later novels he has friends and connections in the upper levels of the establishment. In "Mr. Standfast" he's a senior military officer who poses as a conscientious objector, much against his inclinations, in order to break a German spy ring. In "Greenmantle" he's undercover in Germany and down the Danube to Turkey, on a mission for the British secret service.
    "The Three Hostages" has a minor character delivering a brief and dismissive discussion of "shockers", i.e. the kind of fiction Buchan was writing in these books, in an early chapter. Hannay is a little peeved, as he likes this kind of fiction. He goes under cover again to solve a triple kidnapping of the children of influential people, and finds himself again dealing with those who would disrupt the decent conservative order he loves, led this time by a charming but sinister Irish politician. The late "The Island of Sheep" takes place on a remote nordic island and involves a younger generation of characters. None of these books, to my mind, has much to do with the slangy, tough, somewhat amoral, usually urban American world of the hardboiled tradition as conventionally understood. Stephen On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 12:16 PM, Patrick King <abrasax93@yahoo.com> wrote:

    >
    >
    > How, then, do you define hardboiled fiction? Hannay was the original lone
    > agent who'd stop at nothing to gain his ends. Hell, he escapes from a
    > country house by blowing it up and everyone in it. I'll concede that Buchan
    > is not a great writer in the way that Hammett & Chandler are. But he's a
    > much better writer than his immediate contemporaries, Edgar Wallace and Sax
    > Rohmer.
    >
    > While hardboiled and noir fiction both appeal to us, there's a distinct
    > difference between the two. Hardboiled fiction is romantic, improbable, good
    > overcoming evil by getting into the dirt with evil and beating it at its own
    > game. This pretty much never happens in real life. It's escapist fiction.
    >
    > Noir, on the other hand, is a study of doom. No matter how successful a
    > noir protagonist may be, the decisions they make are going to destroy them.
    > Doc & Carol McCoy in Thompson's THE GETAWAY for example: even in succeeding,
    > the price of their success is so high their life is miserable. Noirs are
    > cautionary tales.
    >
    > So these two types of fiction are almost diametrically opposed to each
    > other. The only factors they have in common is that they were both roughly
    > composed and popular between 1929 & 1959, distributed in paperbacks and
    > magazines, both influenced by and influencing popular cinema, and both deal
    > in crime. Noir deals with crime realisticly, hardboiled deals with crime
    > romantically.
    >
    > The Buchan books about Richard Hannay are tough, violent stories about a
    > lone man fighting crime in the "modern" world and winning against all odds.
    > He's the predecessor to Sam Spade, Phillip Marlow, James Bond, and Indiana
    > Jones. What has to be in the formula, and these are formula books, for you
    > to concede that this is hardboiled fiction? Perhaps the first hardboiled
    > fiction as we have come to know it
    >
    > Patrick King
    >
    > --- On Tue, 8/4/09, Stephen Burridge <stephen.burridge@gmail.com<stephen.burridge%40gmail.com>>
    > wrote:
    >
    > From: Stephen Burridge <stephen.burridge@gmail.com<stephen.burridge%40gmail.com>
    > >
    > Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: greatest noir or detective protags
    > To: rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com <rara-avis-l%40yahoogroups.com>
    > Date: Tuesday, August 4, 2009, 11:29 AM
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > My view is that Buchan, while popular and influential, did not write
    >
    > hardboiled or noir fiction.
    >
    > I haven't read Ian Fleming's work, so I won't comment on it. Bond may well
    >
    > qualify as a hardboiled protagonist.
    >
    > Stephen
    >
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    >
    >
    >

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



    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 04 Aug 2009 EDT