Hi, everyone - here's a question for you:

What, in your opinion, would disqualify a story from being classified as "Noir?"

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OK.  Point taken.  I've used PTSD myself in one novel.  But there is a diminution of character with some of these, particularly of the macho type. (I ended up not particularly liking my guy).  Drug abuse (unless medically acquired) also puts a questionmark to the character's moral fiber.  To start drugs, a man must be into self-indulgence.  To start drinking, he could have suffered a psychological blow.  Besides, society is more accepting of alcohol than drugs. Grief works for a while only.  Take Bruen's Jack Taylor:  he got a lot more sympathy from me when he just drank.  Doing drugs instead made him a total f***-up.

I was talking the other night to Dennis Lehane about "Boston Noir 2" a book he has edited.  Although almost every story in it is excellent they are much less dark than in the heyday of Noir.  Most of the stories are from the 80's, 90's, 00's.  If you go through any of the the anthologies of the older Noir writers (two good ones are, "The Best American Noir of the Century," Ed. Penzler & Ellroy and "Hardboiled," Ed. Pronzini & Adrian") you will see that the writing then was much darker, cynical and sparer.  Literary prose was definitely out then, not so much now.  There was a hard, fatalistic view of life & what the hell we're all involved in.  Again, not so much today.  I guess what I'm saying is Noir is not what it used to be.  The term has been expanded and watered down to include works that would never have been considered Noir in days gone by.  So to disqualify something today as Noir would be much more difficult than the tight definition in its earlier days.  Tough to find a lot that matches the Noir of 50+ years ago.

I prefer the work of the originators, but occasionally I find a modern work that can match it.

I also agree that it has changed.  Let's face it, at the moment noir sells well, so everyone writes it.

Yes, true Noir was very much of its time, a response to the socio-political atmosphere of the 1950s.

How about some interesting noir hybrids?  Noir-adventure, noir-erotica, dystopian noir, maybe not slapstick noir :)

I would probably like slapstick noir.  Very black humor.


Bladerunner is kind of sci-fi noir, don't you think?  The classic James Bond novels were very noir.  Even the recent films have a strong noir influece.  Spy Noir?

"Noir requires a sense of bleakness and despair, and characters so flawed, their failure is in their DNA." - Otto Penzler

Noir-noir sounds like a Euro art film meets psychological thriller.  Could be great or so car-wreck awful you want to go kill yourself.

I pick up books, especially short story collections, claiming to be Noir.  They usually turn out to be just regular mysteries.  I think the term has gotten too loose.  IMHO, a noir hero shouldn't openly proclaim to be seeking justice.  Sure, he/she can be aware of it, can even obtain it.  But he/she isn't motivated by fairness, justice or what society general deems as "right."  If the protag is out to do what's right, and "right" seems to be uncomplicated or straightforward, then I don't see it as noir.  The Maltese Falcon is a great example.  He does what's right but isn't motivated by justice.  To me, that's what determines what is and isn't noir.  Booze and hot, double-crossing dames are nice too, though.

What happened, I think, is that Noir became cool, so it was used to describe anything involving a detective with a drink problem and a hang-dog expression.


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