By Lee Horsley (auth.)
What is literary noir? How do British and American noir thrillers relate to their ancient contexts? In contemplating such questions, this learn levels over countless numbers of novels, analysing the politics and poetics of noir from the hard-boiled fiction of Hammett, Chandler and Cain to the fascinating range of nineties thrillers, with sections at the difficult investigators, gangsters and sufferers of the melancholy years: the first-person killers, femmes fatales and black protagonists of mid-century; the game-players, voyeurs and shoppers of latest thrillers and destiny noir.
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Extra resources for The Noir Thriller
In the end, Ourney thinks back over the list of the dead and acknowledges that he has only stopped two of the ‘crime breeders’. As the ‘New York dick’ says, ‘ “You didn’t do so damned much reforming, Ourney” ’ (191). The stories of Paul Cain are similarly grim and downbeat, centring on morally dubious protagonists who are closely involved with the corruption they investigate. Cain, whose real name was George Sims, started writing for Black Mask a year before Chandler’s ﬁrst story appeared. William F.
The predecessor of later avengers like Mike Hammer and Dirty Harry, Satan has to go into the dark doorways and dismal streets, keeping ‘close to the gutter’ and 30 The Noir Thriller dispensing his own form of justice: it might be murder in the eyes of the state law but not in the light of ‘The criminal’s law. Satan’s law’ (92–3). In spite of Daly’s greater renown at the time, it is, of course, Dashiell Hammett whose reputation has survived and who has much the stronger claim to be seen as the progenitor of literary noir.
11 His stories are crudely written and, for the most part, are not notably akin to noir. 12 Daly’s December 1922 story, ‘The False Burton Combs’, is often taken to be the ﬁrst of Black Mask’s hard-boiled stories. It contains, like most Daly stories, little by way of serious social criticism, partly because what is represented is the intrusion of a gang into an orderly community, rather than (as, say, in Hammett) a whole community that is corrupt. But ‘The False Burton Combs’ does offer its share of cynical one-liners – as when the narrator observes that ‘There ain’t nothing in government unless you’re a politician.