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  • Amor de Cosmos
    started a topic Hard-boiled Noir

    Hard-boiled Noir

    There used to be a mystery thread but I can't find it. In any case we need something more specific, or at least I do. I'm a fairly serious recreational noir-ista. Always with an eye for the overlooked master (who isn't?)

    I'm soaking up Dorothy B. Hughes at the moment. I only knew her as the writer of In A Lonely Place, one of the last truly great noir movies of the classic era. It turns out it wasn't a one off. I ate up The Blackbirder, which is quite Eric Ambler-ish, and now I'm into Ride the Pink Horse which is more in the Hammett/Chandler groove.

    Aside from being the only major female writer in the genre's early period I'm aware of, (Margaret Millar and others are more trad mystery writers) she's also the only one to consistently use Santa Fe as a location. I don't know the city at all, except by reputation. Hughes was a long time resident but, unlike Chandler whose views on Los Angeles were, if not affectionate at least circumspect, Hughes is pretty negative about her town. Oppressive, dirty, small-minded, maybe she's kinder toward it in other novels. Interestingly she isn't mentioned anywhere I can find as part of the internationally known arts community of Santa Fe, maybe she always felt an outsider. Anyway she's well worth checking out, and fortunately most of her stuff is still in print.

  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    Originally posted by Amor de Cosmos View Post
    Should one expect likeable characters in JMC's novels? But you're right, Double Indemnity and Postman... are probably as good as he gets.
    BTW I'm finding the third 'IQ' novel of Joe Ide's much better than the reviews suggested. I still think jumping into the middle of the series might be confusing though. In a way they're like three parts of the same story. A bit like a lot of fantasy/sci-fi.

    [sorry, clicked on the wrong reply button!]

    Leave a comment:


  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    Should one expect likeable characters in JMC's novels? But you're right, Double Indemnity and Postman... are probably as good as he gets.

    Leave a comment:


  • White No Sugar
    replied
    Just finished Serenade by James M Cain. Not many likeable characters but it certainly moves along. I prefer Double Indemnity and The Postman...

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  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    I've read the first two and concur. They're OK, but I wouldn't want to begin with the second novel for the reason you mention. We have the third, which has had some poor reviews, but I think I'll need a break before check it out.

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  • White No Sugar
    replied
    Originally posted by danielmak View Post
    I haven't read any of these Joe Ide books but the series looks interesting:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/b...e=sectionfront
    Thanks for the heads up.
    Read the first in the series. It’s good not great. Too much back story for my liking which hopefully won’t be the case in the others.

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  • Felicity, I guess so
    replied
    Originally posted by danielmak View Post
    Maybe not a perfect fit for this thread, but there should be some in here that fit:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/b...e=sectionfront
    I have a probably irrational dislike of McCall Smith (recommended for Africa in the link). Was the tv adaptation really twee? It bugged me somehow anyway and I've avoided him ever since. And it's a bit odd to list Dibdin's LAST Zen novel for Italy (picky, me...).

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  • Felicity, I guess so
    replied
    A former PhD student of mine who shares my taste in crime fiction just recommended Don Winslow-it's sitting on my kindle for later. I countered with a Gary Phillips novel I got in Oxfam (Ivan Monk, black PI in LA in the 90s).

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  • danielmak
    replied
    I haven't read any of these Joe Ide books but the series looks interesting:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/b...e=sectionfront

    Leave a comment:


  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    Willeford's mentioned near the top of thread by Benj. As I noted the other three Hoke Moseley books are well up to scratch.

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  • Satchmo Distel
    replied
    'Miami Blues' by Charles Willeford, especially as it is mostly written from the baddie's POV rather than the detective's. A dark view of Florida in the 80s. Has anyone read Willeford's other books who can attest to whether they maintain this standard? Elmore Leonard states in the Intro that he learned a lot from Willeford.

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  • adams house cat
    replied
    Once again, not a perfect fit but Walter Mosely "Black Betty" or "Devil With A Blue Dress".

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  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    Great. I've only read five of those so far as I can remember. Surprised Nicholas Freeling didn't make it for either Brussels or Strasbourg. And Sjöwall and Wahlöö will take a lot of shifting before anyone else claims Stockholm. For anyone who's interested a decent production of Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games (Mumbai/Bombay) is running on Netflix.

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  • danielmak
    replied
    Maybe not a perfect fit for this thread, but there should be some in here that fit:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/b...e=sectionfront

    Leave a comment:


  • Satchmo Distel
    replied
    Phillip Kerr's Berlin Noir series, starting late 80s. Dark but funny.

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  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    Originally posted by Benjm View Post


    Among those waiting on the shelf is Mildred Pierce, his third undisputed classic and source of a classic film. Not to mention The Butterfly, which I have in a tie-in edition for a film starring Pia Zadora and Orson Welles. I really hope that the posters ran with 'Together At Last!' as the strapline.


    A big thing about Cain is that if you take away the hard-boiled reputation and look at his plots and characterisation, his novels are essentially romantic melodramas presented so as not to disconcert male readers.
    Pia Zadora and Orson Welles? Good grief!

    I had exactly the same thought re: romantic melodrama on reading The Cocktail Waitress. It's a darker and dirtier Harlequin (sans happy ending of course.)

    Originally posted by Benjm View Post
    I've ordered a Dorothy B Hughes after her mention above; Dread Journey, which is apparently about a Hollywood starlet being stalked on a trans-continental train. That sounds great!
    I'll just have to read Dread Journey in that case — I'm a sucker for train stories. Much of The Blackbirder also takes place on trains. She has an almost Conan Doyle-ish obsession with times and connections.

    After reading Ride the Pink Horse I'm beginning to realise that Hughes was a superior writer in the genre. The story's structure is both effective and, AFAIK, original. I won't get into a long description, but it takes place during fiesta (obviously Santa Fe, but unnamed). The protagonist, a dodgy fixer from Chicago, is a total outsider. He doesn't get it, the event, the people, anything. The celebration functions as both a trap, and a barrier, that in a succession of incidents prevents him confronting his old boss who owes him money. It is remarkably well done.

    BTW this collection is well worth purchasing

    Not all noir by any means but it includes In a Lonely Place, an excellent early Patricia Highsmith, a Margaret Millar and others.
    Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 31-05-2018, 17:17.

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  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    OOOooooo! I'd luurve to see that.

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  • Aitch
    replied
    I have just seen Double Noir (in a gallery, I can't find it on the internet but it's an excellent piece of craftsmanship well worth watching). It's a 4' 04" animation made by Serbian artist Nemanja Nikolić in chalk on blackboards.

    As the exhibition notes say, "Using deconstruction by tampering with film stills taken from eighteen Humphrey Bogart noir movies and by transfering them into drawings, a new movie narrative is formed. The act of drawing is preceded by the selection of the movie sequences and then individual frames taken from them are drawn in white chalk on a blackboard. These drawings are then photographed and erased with a sponge. The same blackboard is then used for the next drawing. Each blackboard stands for one movie sequence. The only lasting drawing document of this complex undertaking is the drawing of the last frame of the 60 sequences that make up the narrative.

    Photos of the whole series are then made into an animation that becomes the only medium that safeguards the complete ‘memory’ of this layered work. The drawings in sequences, however, are not copies or verbatim ‘quotes’ taken out of the movie. The author combines, multiplies, finesses or accumulates in the same layer segments of 18 different noir movies. Drawing a line and writing a letter are thus made out to be the same, and drawing becomes a form of cinematography in its own right by articulating meaning in non-static movie time-space through juxtaposition of images, sounds and movements.(...)

    Thematically, the Double Noir narrative is based on the legendary noir protagonist, the actor Humphrey Bogart. As the animation starts, he appears in a darkened room. Silence is interrupted by footsteps and then a doorbell rings. Answering it, Bogart meets his doppelganger. Suspicion, panic and psychological bifurcation are fuel for a schizoid scene that turns the animation into a chase in which one of them will die. Who is the killer and who is the victim remains unexplained (...) the last scene of the Double Noir loops back to the beginning where we again witness Humphrey Bogart appearing in the darkened room, hearing footsteps in the distance when the doorbell rings.... "

    Got that? Here's one of the stills:

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  • Benjm
    replied
    Originally posted by Amor de Cosmos View Post
    I've just finished Serenade (which I've a beat up first edition of somehow.) It's not easy. Relentlessly racially negative about Mexicans, though the central female character is a sympathetic and heroic Latina. Similarly the male protagonist is explicitly bi-sexual, but the major villain gay. It's preposterous, disturbing and fascinating in equal measure.
    Yes, I read Serenade earlier this year and it is quite something. Apart from the above (and a fairly casually mentioned rape), there's the whole musical aspect of it. The anti-hero is an opera singer, much of the story revolves around him losing and finding his voice, in a not entirely subtle analogy for something else, and there are fairly lengthy passages of hard-boiled classical music criticism. Perhaps the most bizarre thing is that Cain manages to wrestle all this into something of a page turner.

    I've also recently read JMC's The Root Of His Evil, in which a poor girl on the make takes up with a spoiled rich kid, from a disapproving family of maniacs. I meant to mention this on another thread, as the heroine narrates it in the first person. Rainbow's End is a distant ancestor of Scott Smith's A Simple Plan, but with added layers of melodrama and extended riffs on hillbilly social mores, because it is a James M Cain novel, after all. In The Magician's Wife a high flying catering executive falls for a beautiful but troubled young woman who is married to a magician. SPOILER. It doesn't end well.

    Among those waiting on the shelf is Mildred Pierce, his third undisputed classic and source of a classic film. Not to mention The Butterfly, which I have in a tie-in edition for a film starring Pia Zadora and Orson Welles. I really hope that the posters ran with 'Together At Last!' as the strapline.

    I think you have to be something of a romantic to get off on the genre,
    A big thing about Cain is that if you take away the hard-boiled reputation and look at his plots and characterisation, his novels are essentially romantic melodramas presented so as not to disconcert male readers.

    I'll come back to Willeford when I've got the two non-Miami omnibuses to hand. His catalogue is quite confusing as a lot of his early works were reissued with different Miami-tastic titles to take advantage of his '80s success. Torrid tales of two-bit losers and femmes fatales were also his thing rather than the (slightly) more sober P.I. as social commentator end of the field.

    I've ordered a Dorothy B Hughes after her mention above; Dread Journey, which is apparently about a Hollywood starlet being stalked on a trans-continental train. That sounds great!

    Leave a comment:


  • Felicity, I guess so
    replied
    I've just read a 30p Daniel Woodrell, Muscle for the Wing and am inspired to seek out others. I THINK I've read a couple of others by him, years ago

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  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    No problem. I think you have to be something of a romantic to get off on the genre, so you'll probably fit right in. (Though Cain pushes that definition for sure.)

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  • Hot Pepsi
    replied
    This is always something I've wanted to get into, but haven't done much with. Thanks for this thread.

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  • Amor de Cosmos
    replied
    Ah, thanks for reminding me! Willeford's Miami based Hoke Moseley books are excellent, but I've not read any of his early stuff. Is it up to scratch? The film of Miami Blues is also well worth watching. Probably as good a job as Alec Baldwin has turned in, and Fred Ward makes an excellent Moseley.

    I agree Cain's style sets him apart. There's continuity between Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald, but Cain pushes more itchy buttons. I've just finished Serenade (which I've a beat up first edition of somehow.) It's not easy. Relentlessly racially negative about Mexicans, though the central female character is a sympathetic and heroic Latina. Similarly the male protagonist is explicitly bi-sexual, but the major villain gay. It's preposterous, disturbing and fascinating in equal measure. Someone said that you feel like you need a shower after reading a Cain novel and I kind of understand what they meant.

    I must read In a Lonely Place, then see the film again. I understand it changed a fair bit during production (some claim due to the growing relationship between Nicholas Ray and Gloria Grahame.)

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  • Satchmo Distel
    replied
    There's a BFI book on In A Lonely Place https://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Place-.../dp/0851703607

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  • Benjm
    replied
    I've got a few James M Cains racked up. None of his others quite come together with the fevered brevity of The Postman... and Double Indemnity but the elements are always there. He is a truly distinctive writer. I'm always surprised when he is cited as one of the big three, alongside Hammett and Chandler, just because Ross Macdonald seems the more natural fit. It may be that, like the big 5/4/6 in football, the grouping varies slightly according to time and context.

    I've also got a novel and short story set by Paul Cain (no relation as far as I know) to read. He apparently is noir to the point of having been believed to have no literary merit whatsoever by Chandler, so it could be stark brilliance or Spillane-y guff. Also a couple of Charles Willeford novels in an anthology that I haven't got around to yet. He's a strange one; active as a pulp/noirist from the '50s to early '70s then going quiet before reappearing with a Miami trilogy in the late '80s. There's probably a line to be spun about noir's natural home moving from California to Florida in the intervening period, as well as noir's natural environment perversely being sunshine states.

    Emmett Grogan's sole novel, Final Score, is a satisfying hard boiled crimer and may be of particular interest to you, AdC.

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