chelsea-leber asked: Can I just tell you how excited I am that you followed me? That's really creepy, but I'm okay with that. For years I read these books and people look at me funny because Raymond Chandler is no Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner would scoff at Dashiell Hammett. There are very few people who appreciate hard-boiled fiction and noir and often times I am told it is cheaply done and doesn't count as literature. So, if there was a way to pick you up and spin you around via the internet, I would.
You are far from creepy. I’m always excited to meet a fellow fan of hardboiled and noir, as well.
Hardboiled literature evolved out of pulp fiction, which was not intended as anything more than popular entertainment. Often writers like Donald Henderson Clarke or Carroll John Daly were not possessed of great literary talent. But really, how many novels does Knopf publish each year that are promptly forgotten? I’m not sure this invalidates the entire enterprise.
But Hammett and Chandler, while clearly writing genre fiction, were wordsmiths who transcended their paid-by-the-word predecessors. Hammett was arguably utilizing lean, spare prose several years before Hemingway was. Faulkner evidently did not think The Big Sleep beneath him when he was writing the screenplay for Howard Hawks. Chandler certainly had noticeable deficiencies when it came to constructing plots. But as a wordsmith, I think he can take his place with any writer who has ever used the English language.
Furthermore, noir has developed a great deal since Hammett and Chandler. I defy an critic of hardboiled and noir to tell me that Patricia Highsmith is not literature or is cheaply done. Likewise with James Ellroy or Dennis Lehane. While Ross Macdonald is not my favorite hardboiled author, his work was held in high regard by the literary arbiters of his day.
Sure, we still have Michael Connelly and Sue Grafton, whose work may be enjoyable (Connelly is, Grafton may not always be), but is hardly great literature. But every genre is a mixed bag. Literary hardboiled/noir fiction is there to be had. And there’s no need to be ashamed of reading the really fun genre stuff like Richard S. Prather or Jim Thompson, either.
What say you, tumblchums? Which hardboiled/noir authors do you think are most noteworthy beyond the genre?