In an essay on The Huffington Post, Benjamin LeRoy, formerly of Bleak House Books and now a publishers at Tyrus Books, says that, "I sometimes worry that publishing leans too heavily on the escapism and that we run the danger of over-escaping,"

 

The essay is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-leroy/publishing-on-the-frin...

 

He also says, "I'm not knocking it and I wouldn't even know where to begin in selecting those titles or the responsibilities and stresses that come with moving 20, 50, 100,000 units of written Hollywood. But I think it's important to fight for what makes the book special--the human connection."

 

("Written Hollywood," I love that. He also uses the term, "Clap-along justice," which I think is fantastic).

 

Personally I'm a big fan of small presses like Bleak House and Tyrus (I'm going to start saying that I left Harcourt and St. Martins to be with a small press, ECW - instead of that the big publishers dropped me ;)

 

What do you think?

 

 

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The two terms describe a style/worldview rather than a subgenre. P.I. is a subgenre, just like police procedural, or historical. These may be hardboiled or noir in addition to being a specific genre.
The two terms describe a style/worldview rather than a subgenre.

Actually I've always been a little confused by the terminology. Can't you have a hard-boiled detective in a noir novel? I thought all noir detectives were hard-boiled. :) And isn't the beautiful but deadly dame an essential for noir? The one who betrays even the hard-boiled detective and therefore trashes all illusions about the goodness and decency of beautiful women ? I guess maybe I should be asking the guys who write these stories....
I think it has something to do with the ending, Caroline. Noir aims at a bad end. The hardboiled detective frequently is victorious in the end. Of course, much may be done by shifting points of view. And yes, the boundary lines may become very hazy.
Noir aims at a bad end.

Thanks IJ. See also my reply to Jack Bludis. You've both cleared it up for me. I think I get it now.
I'd love to have a list from all all your writers of the "noirest of the noirs" that you know.
I am suddenly put in mind of a short novel that I read a few years ago....only at the moment I can't remember either the title or the author. :< Will have to push a few brain buttons to see if I can recall it. But it was pitch black Noir! It was well written and suspenseful, but it left me with just that feeling....that I was screwed!
Even the hard boiled and noir aficionados argue amongst themselves about the meanings of the terms. I think that Penzler's article at Huffington Post makes that point and clears up what he thinks Noir is, which is pretty close to my own definition of "screwed."

Hard boiled is tough. The protagonists in most noir fiction are screwed. No matter what they do they are not going to win. It usually has to do with their makeup, they are born losers. If not the femme fatale, it would be something else, like money, that draws them into the abyss.

Many looking at the work from the outside confuse noir fiction with noir film. Noir film is usually dark, shadows, the whole in the gutter aspect and you see that with many of the old hard-boiled movies that are not necessarily noir.

BTW, the earliest work I know that uses the term "hard boiled" is Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises."
The protagonists in most noir fiction are screwed. No matter what they do they are not going to win.

Ah, yes, I think I get it now. You are talking about the element that makes for a true Tragedy: the Fatal Flaw. (In the Greek sense, in the Shakespearean sense). The tragic hero (or anti-hero) is destined to lose because of his own weaknesses. Greed, pride, obsession with the deadly dame. Whatever. His own sense of worthlessness maybe--that would be the "born loser." The weakness or needs he can't overcome or even foresee--at least not in time. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves." Sort of like that.
Thanks for clarifying. :)

Noir film is usually dark, shadows, the whole in the gutter aspect and you see that with many of the old hard-boiled movies that are not necessarily noir.

Yes, that does confuse things a bit. But film noir is wonderful stuff!
Yes, Film noir IS wonderful stuff, but the stories are not always noir. Ray Milland's movie "The Big Clock" has a noir feel all the way through, but it has an upbeat ending. Never having read the book, I'm not sure how it ends.

I still think that James M. Cain, is the classic noir writers.

A young writer who is hitting his stride with noir is Dave Zeltserman with his recent "man out of jail" series, I think he calls it, beginning with "Small Crimes."

I have trouble enjoying angst ... I have enough of it in my own life to take on fictitious angst. It is, perhaps, why I haven't reread the classics of that particular sub-genre.
I have trouble enjoying angst ... I have enough of it in my own life to take on fictitious angst.

That I can understand! The "noir" novel I was thinking of is "Night Train," by Martin Amis. It did not get good reviews---many thought it a failed noir (noir manque!) :) I would tend to agree. It tried hard to be noir, anyway. Amis is British, was trying to write American. Didn't quite pull it off.
I know life doesn't always have upbeat endings, but I do like a sense of closure in mysteries. I like knowing why. Probably why I prefer the psychological thriller and the police procedural. :)
This got a little away from Ben (who likes noir). Ben and Bleak House had considered my book BLEEDER (but said no, thanks, and that's ok). But after that experience I knew that small presses cared so much more about principles and literature and about authors and I'm very glad to be with a small house now for both BLEEDER and VIPER (Sophia Institute Press). "Escapism" isn't all that bad in itself if it is stylish. Heck, people read mysteries to escape for just a while into a world other than their own, and not be intellectually insulted while they do so. Escapism and Excellence CAN go together.
Escapism and Excellence CAN go together.

I agree! And it's not just mysteries of course---reading all fiction, good bad or indifferent, is "escape." Perhaps all reading is escape, even when we read with the sole intent of learning something. (Do they still call it "broadening your mind?") The wide-awake reader puts it all to good use, right? :)
I've always liked the definition where in hard-boiled the hero is tough, in noir the hero is screwed. :-)

But to bring this back to the question - I don't think there can be too much escapism myself, but then I loved studying myth and psychology in college. Escapism is play, and play is how humans learn about the world and process it.

I think sometimes we get mixed up as to what the message is in a story. The surface may say something about society - but that's not really what your mind gets out of it. Escapism tends to let us get away from that false surface message more easily.

Camille
I don't think there can be too much escapism myself, but then I loved studying myth and psychology in college. Escapism is play, and play is how humans learn about the world and process it.

A woman after my own heart, Camille! And very well put, too.
(I still read the myths that I loved growing up--- many of them still speak to a contemporary soul).
We have to remember that it can be a good thing to escape---if indeed we do learn, so that when we return as we always must we bring back something new, a different way of looking at things.

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