This question is prompted by an excellent article by Tim Noah that appeared Thursday, Sept 2nd on under this link:


 It's a review of "A Bright and Guilty Place", a history of the corruption that plagued Los Angeles in the 1920's and played a large role in inspiring the birth of noir fiction, according to the author. The book was written by Richard Rayner and takes a look at the dark side of the City of Angels.


Raymond Chandler, James Cain and Dorothy Hughes, among others, produced classic noir fiction that set the standard for future writers of noir and established LA as its birthplace (although fans of Chester Himes and Mickey Spillane might disagree).


But Tim Noah cotends that LA is not only the birthplace of noir, but still reigns as its capital.


I don't agree with that statement.


Plenty of contenders for the  crown setting of noir fiction have emerged. Cornell Woolrich, Spillane, Himes and more recently SJ Rozan, can make the case for New York City. John McDonald and now Carl Hiassen give Florida a claim to the title. And some young writers are producing excellent noir fiction in Chicago, including (but not limited to) Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey and Libby Fischer Hellman.


There are others locales that come to mind. How about Baltimore (Laura Lippman) or Boston (Tess Gerristesen)? Take your pick and share your suggestions for the setting that truely represents todays noir fiction capital.


For myself, I'm going to say Chicago is the new capital. I'm very impressed with the breath and depth of the gritty fiction coming out of that city. But that's just my opinion.


What's yours?



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When people think of noir, they probably think of L.A. But what they're really thinking of is "large, sprawling metropolis sagging under the weight of its own filth." I think you could apply that to any major urban hub. It wasn't too long ago that noir came to the Twin Cities - a far cry from L.A.
I agree with Benjamin and his saggy, sprawling metropolis :o) Any and every city can be - and often is - noir. And then what about the country? Daniel Woodrell's small Ozak towns are totally noir. Or Jim Thompson? So I don't think there's any new capital city of Noir. It can creep into the nooks and crannies anywhere because it comes from the dark hearts of the people who live there.
I think the key to noir is that the setting has to have gone from optimistic, expanding and forward-looking to "sagging under the weight of its own filth." If it never had that promise (real or not, people had to have believed a little of it) and never lost it, then it isn't really a noir setting.

And the timing is important. That optimistic, forward-looking attutide can't have been too far in the past.

Also, LA isn't an abandonded city like Buffalo or Detroit, people are still moving to LA looking for a new beginning so it's always harkening back. There's an odd nostalgia to noir - for the characters and the settings, youth is almost always gone.


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