Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Nihilism and Willeford

From: Patrick King (
Date: 14 Sep 2009

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    Re your question below:

    "So you consider Wilkie Collins' THE WOMAN IN WHITE, noir?" Of course. I thought it was obvious that it was noir.


    I don't think so. Noir, as the term is popularly used, relates to a novel in which the protagonist learns the secrets of his personality too late. Atmosphere has really very little to do with it. THE WOMAN IN WHITE is a mystery story, among the first, but it is not noir. Hartright solves the mystery, he is not ruined by it. In any novel the protagonist changes, normally for the better. In a true noir novel like THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, Frank Chambers does evolve as a person, but his poor decisions, one after the other, leave him in the death chamber of a prison. You see a similar down turn in Willeson's WILD WIVES for detective Jake Blake. The classic noir film, OUT OF THE PAST, gives us another view in this direction of Jeff Bailey. These are the stories that the term was coined for.

    THE MALTESE FALCON is a hard boiled novel. It is not noir. None of Hammett's books are noir. All of Jim Thompson's, or all I can think of, are noir. A noir protagonist may not always die, but he is always left lower than he was, and it is doubtful he will ever pull himself out of the tail spin.


    WUTHERING HEIGHTS is not a crime novel, so it's not noir.


    That depends on what you think Heathcliff did to earn his fortune. I find WUTHERING HEIGHTS to be very similar to Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY in story line. Gatsby was no doubt a criminal.

    Patrick King


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