Posts tagged Dennis Lehane

Robert B. Parker revitalized private eye fiction in the 1970s, and this new anthology pays tribute to the modern master of the genre.  And what do you know, I was lucky enough to get a chance to review it for Crime Fiction Lover.  The contributors in this book include new Spenser author Ace Atkins, Dennis Lehane, Lawrence Block, Ed Gorman and other crime fiction titans.
But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

Robert B. Parker revitalized private eye fiction in the 1970s, and this new anthology pays tribute to the modern master of the genre.  And what do you know, I was lucky enough to get a chance to review it for Crime Fiction Lover.  The contributors in this book include new Spenser author Ace Atkins, Dennis Lehane, Lawrence Block, Ed Gorman and other crime fiction titans.

But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

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A great many excellent writers have written hardboiled or noir fiction, and these art forms have spread worldwide. Nevertheless, the hardboiled detective and the doomed noir protagonist are rooted in America’s Jazz Age. The Fourth of July is a good time to examine how hardboiled and noir fiction has developed since Hammett, Chandler and Cain. Here are a few current American writers that have written excellent hardboiled or noir fiction. All of them continue to write and illuminate various geographical areas in the United States of America, and important themes of American history…

Today at CFL, I celebrate the Fourth of July by listing 5 American authors writing in the hardboiled tradition. I take a look at writers who have written about different regions of the country and explored different aspects of the American experience.  So check it out.  And leave a comment there or here letting me know what you think of my choices.

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thegirlwhowasthursday said: Your Tumblr has been an eye opener for me - I've been working my though Chandler et al. and am nearing the end of authors suggested in an earlier post written by you. I was wondering though if you had come across any authors who are basing their noir in the 90's upwards? I would be interested if the genre translates well.

I’m delighted to hear that you’ve taken my suggestions, and I’d be very curious to know which authors you’ve read and what you thought of them.  That might help me extrapolate your preferences to more recent hardboiled/noir fiction.  (And there is a difference between the two terms, as I’ve discussed previously.)

Dennis Lehane has written excellent hardboiled (The Kenzie-Gennaro novels) and noir (Mystic River) fiction recently.  Walter Mosley is most famous for his Easy Rawlins series, which traces the African American detective from 1948 to 1967.  But his more recent Leonid McGill novels have a contemporary setting.  Hard Case Crime publishes a mixture of reprints and original novels.  Some of the original novels are period pieces, but some have modern settings.  

George Pelecanos’ crime novels are very good.  And Elmore Leonard has written a number of good novels since the Nineties started more than twenty years ago.  

I often focus on the classics here on this blog, but I review recent crime fiction at Crime Fiction Lover.  My reviews there may be of some utility.  My ask box is, of course, always open.  And, as always, I invite feedback from readers.  What did I leave out?  What would you recommend, tumblchums?

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chelsea-leber said: 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?

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Anonymous said: what is "noir novels?"

I have addressed this point here and here.  Nonetheless, it is a good time to reiterate my view of what noir is, given that I was just questioning the noir bona fides of Stieg Larsson.

Noir is, to some degree, a matter of “I know it when I see it.”  If you read the previous posts, you’ll see that noir developed out of the hardboiled tradition.  Authors like James M. Cain and Cornell Woolrich wrote stories that were as bleak and hard as anything hardboiled (if not more so!), but  did not center on the hardboiled detective. 

There is no Philip Marlowe or Continental Op to set things right in Cain’s writing.  The protagonists are undone by their own desires, just like everyone else.  James M. Cain was an early pioneer of noir, and other notable noir authors include Cornell Woolrich, Dorothy B. Hughes, Jim Thompson, Patricia Highsmith and George V. Higgins.  More recently, Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane and James Sallis have all written excellent noir.

In a nutshell, this is what noir fiction is.  It is not film noir, which can be based on a work of literary noir (Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train), but may also be derived from hardboiled fiction (The Maltese Falcon).  

As always, I invite readers to offer alternate views or clarifications to my own opinion.

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These are exciting days here at Dispatches from Noir.  I am proud to say that I am now the resident American correspondent at Crime Fiction Lover.  CFL is an terrific site where mysteries of all kinds are reviewed, and it also has other excellent features.  Today at Crime Fiction Lover, an interview with Max Allan Collins is hot off the press.  If you’re a fan of Collins, hardboiled crime fiction or Mickey Spillane, you’ll definitely want to check it out.  
I began my tenure with Crime Fiction Lover by reviewing Jens Lapidus’ debut novel Easy Money.  I’ve previously talked about the movie Snabba Cash here at Dispatches from Noir.  The movie was very good (and beat the hell out of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but the book was even better.  Easy Money left me really looking forward to the rest of the Stockholm Noir trilogy.  So go check out my review at CFL.  
About a month ago, I was fortunate to see Jens Lapidus during his small American book tour (only 7 US cities) to promote his novel.  I was very impressed as he gave a short lecture about his legal experiences (Lapidus is still a practicing defense attorney) and writing process, then answered questions from the audience.  Lapidus acknowledged that what is termed Scandinavian noir is more or less synonymous with Scandinavian crime fiction.  In contrast to most Scandinavian crime fiction, however, Lapidus can claim definite noir influence.  
Among those Jens Lapidus listed as noir influences were James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard.  He also mentioned other hardboiled or noirish authors he enjoyed, such as Raymond Chandler, Walter Mosley and George Pelecanos.  Lapidus’ staccato prose was especially influenced by Ellroy and Chandler, and he freely acknowledged his debt.
In short, Lapidus a new author squarely in the noir/hardboiled tradition both thematically and stylistically.  I highly recommend Easy Money.  But I recommend Crime Fiction Lover (including my review of Easy Money) even more highly.  Check out CFL for reviews on all sorts of mysteries, and you can always find my reviews by clicking the CFL Reviews link at the top of every Dispatches from Noir page.
You needn’t worry this will take me away from Dispatches from Noir (if any of you find that a worrying thought, which is unlikely). I will still be here and still be talking about noir and answering your questions about it.  I’ve got some good stuff in the works for this week.  Stay tuned!

These are exciting days here at Dispatches from Noir.  I am proud to say that I am now the resident American correspondent at Crime Fiction Lover.  CFL is an terrific site where mysteries of all kinds are reviewed, and it also has other excellent features.  Today at Crime Fiction Lover, an interview with Max Allan Collins is hot off the press.  If you’re a fan of Collins, hardboiled crime fiction or Mickey Spillane, you’ll definitely want to check it out.  

I began my tenure with Crime Fiction Lover by reviewing Jens Lapidus’ debut novel Easy Money.  I’ve previously talked about the movie Snabba Cash here at Dispatches from Noir.  The movie was very good (and beat the hell out of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but the book was even better.  Easy Money left me really looking forward to the rest of the Stockholm Noir trilogy.  So go check out my review at CFL.  

About a month ago, I was fortunate to see Jens Lapidus during his small American book tour (only 7 US cities) to promote his novel.  I was very impressed as he gave a short lecture about his legal experiences (Lapidus is still a practicing defense attorney) and writing process, then answered questions from the audience.  Lapidus acknowledged that what is termed Scandinavian noir is more or less synonymous with Scandinavian crime fiction.  In contrast to most Scandinavian crime fiction, however, Lapidus can claim definite noir influence.  

Among those Jens Lapidus listed as noir influences were James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard.  He also mentioned other hardboiled or noirish authors he enjoyed, such as Raymond Chandler, Walter Mosley and George Pelecanos.  Lapidus’ staccato prose was especially influenced by Ellroy and Chandler, and he freely acknowledged his debt.

In short, Lapidus a new author squarely in the noir/hardboiled tradition both thematically and stylistically.  I highly recommend Easy Money.  But I recommend Crime Fiction Lover (including my review of Easy Money) even more highly.  Check out CFL for reviews on all sorts of mysteries, and you can always find my reviews by clicking the CFL Reviews link at the top of every Dispatches from Noir page.

You needn’t worry this will take me away from Dispatches from Noir (if any of you find that a worrying thought, which is unlikely). I will still be here and still be talking about noir and answering your questions about it.  I’ve got some good stuff in the works for this week.  Stay tuned!

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The end of the semester was a flight to the finish, as usual.  But I’m recovering nicely  with the help crime fiction, and have already finished a couple books over the weekend (I can read at a pretty decent clip when research projects and grading don’t interfere).  I hope to be writing a bit more, as well.  So watch this space—with any degree of luck, it will be more interesting than it was over the past few weeks.
One book I was eager to read was James Sallis’ sequel to Drive.  Driven does not disappoint.  And yet.  Drive was a taut novella, spare and elegant in its crushing brutality.  Sallis’ laconic prose was economical and precise.  He didn’t paint the picture with a brush.  He carved it with a scalpel.  The wounds bled.  But he didn’t make any more incisions than he had to.  
Sallis’ skill has not abated one jot in Driven.  Again we delight in the efficient, bleak storytelling.  And yet.  The story is brilliant.  And yet.
Unlike Drive, Driven is obviously not a stand-alone story.  I think Megan Abbott is correct, Sallis is leading us to Driver’s inevitable demise, and each brush with death  that Driver escapes will only make us mourn the end more.  But Driven neither the beginning nor the end.  And at only 158 pages, I felt Sallis had ample room to expand his tale.  He could fit Drive, Driven and at least one more book the approximate size of the first two within the confines of a Michael Connelly novel.  
Still, is that a fault of the book, or the author?  I’m not sure.  I want more.  But that might just be because Sallis is a damn good writer.  For better or worse, this damn good writer parcels out his saga in short novellas.  I may not like it.  I want more.  But what can I do?  Sallis doesn’t leave me any choice.  There’s no telling when Driver will hit the skids.  But when he does, I’ll be rubbernecking.

The end of the semester was a flight to the finish, as usual.  But I’m recovering nicely  with the help crime fiction, and have already finished a couple books over the weekend (I can read at a pretty decent clip when research projects and grading don’t interfere).  I hope to be writing a bit more, as well.  So watch this space—with any degree of luck, it will be more interesting than it was over the past few weeks.

One book I was eager to read was James Sallis’ sequel to Drive.  Driven does not disappoint.  And yet.  Drive was a taut novella, spare and elegant in its crushing brutality.  Sallis’ laconic prose was economical and precise.  He didn’t paint the picture with a brush.  He carved it with a scalpel.  The wounds bled.  But he didn’t make any more incisions than he had to.  

Sallis’ skill has not abated one jot in Driven.  Again we delight in the efficient, bleak storytelling.  And yet.  The story is brilliant.  And yet.

Unlike Drive, Driven is obviously not a stand-alone story.  I think Megan Abbott is correct, Sallis is leading us to Driver’s inevitable demise, and each brush with death  that Driver escapes will only make us mourn the end more.  But Driven neither the beginning nor the end.  And at only 158 pages, I felt Sallis had ample room to expand his tale.  He could fit Drive, Driven and at least one more book the approximate size of the first two within the confines of a Michael Connelly novel.  

Still, is that a fault of the book, or the author?  I’m not sure.  I want more.  But that might just be because Sallis is a damn good writer.  For better or worse, this damn good writer parcels out his saga in short novellas.  I may not like it.  I want more.  But what can I do?  Sallis doesn’t leave me any choice.  There’s no telling when Driver will hit the skids.  But when he does, I’ll be rubbernecking.

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If you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with something other than drinking fine Irish libations (I’ll have a Jameson and soda, thank-you very much), then you might be interested in some crime fiction.  There is plenty to be had—and even more if you consider Irish-American crime fiction (Dennis Lehane, George V. Higgins).  

One good place to start might be the Irish television drama Proof.  Consisting of two series, Proof combines the gritty muckracking of The Glass Key or Flash Casey with 24-style suspense.  Starring the underrated Finbar Lynch and Orla Brady, each series has four fifty-minute episodes.  The show does not offer viewers a happy ending, but it does explore questions of official corruption, illicit business, and attitudes toward immigrants.  

Ken Bruen is one of the masters of modern Irish noir.  Bruen has written three Hard Case Crime novels with Jason Starr (who is not Irish, though Ireland and Irish-Americans are frequent themes of Starr’s work).  Any Hard Case Crime volume is worth reading, but these three are especially good if you want Irish-tinged pulp.  

There is sure to be even more fine Irish noir, and suggestions are always welcome. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know about your favorite Irish (or Irish-American) noir/hardboiled/pulp.

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Here’s some literature porn to brighten your Monday morning.  I found some pretty neat hardboiled paperbacks last week.  Included in the haul were some great fictional PIs: Kenzie and Gennaro, Travis McGee, Shell Scott and V.I. Warshawski.  

But the real prizes were a couple rare finds.  I ran across a movie tie-in edition of Ross Macdonald’s The Moving Target, renamed Harper to match the 1966 Paul Newman film.  Even better was a slim pulp anthology from 1957.  Dolls are Murder not only has a great ring to it, it also has a great pulp cover.  It not only features some of my favorite pulp/hardboiled scribes in Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald, it has some stories from authors I’ve been wanting to read, like Brett Halliday.  

They just don’t make ‘em like the used to—the authors or the books.

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