Author of Crime Fiction Novels
by Uriel E. Gribetz
Noir fiction like all other art forms is a composition of style and content.
The noir form’s style is that of brevity; less is better; words are precise. Although Hemingway was not a writer of noir, he was the master at capturing the world using clarity and acuity in language. James Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, the forbearers of noir fiction, borrowed from Hemingway’s minimalist style. Why describe a scene in five words when three are more sufficient? Why have a character express himself or herself in dialogue that takes five sentences when all that is required is one? The more verbose language or words the bigger risk that the reader’s attention will be lost. Words or language should not interfere with the path of the story. The ease of the style and its simplicity make the reader think how effortless the task of writing seems and reading becomes easy; and then the reader can concentrate on the plot, the characters without being distracted. Of course purveyors of the style struggle with this word or that phrase to make it look this way to our reader.
The content of the noir form was borne out of the malaise of post World War II. Veterans returning from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific brought home a human condition that was expressed in this form. This thematic undercurrent may also be traced to Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus. Existentialism and Nihilism add to the dark view of the human condition where savagery and violence are commonplace; it doesn’t matter who is right; what matters is who is stronger or bigger.
In this discussion the forces of fictional realism captured by Truman Capote’s true crime work IN COLD BLOOD and emulated by Norman Mailer in THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG exert their influence over the shape and content of the noir form. The matter of fact way that these authors describe the horrific acts of violence has helped shape the modern noir genre.
Consider Ed McBain in his 87th Precinct books. The swift movement of the story carried by dark acts of violence in language stripped bare. Although the police procedural is not considered noir fiction it certainly has exerted its share of influence.
Needless to say there are many other fine artists who have contributed as well to the birth of the modern form of noir fiction. However, the issue is where does the writer of noir fiction go? What is the prognosis for its perpetuation?
Indeed this observer is optimistic and hopeful. The current human condition is a perfect fit. It is a zeitgeist where nothing is taboo if it puts you on TV-the more voyeuristic the better-hope is not hope because there is no hope-and the computer feeds it all with the click of a mouse. The amount of material available to the writer of noir fiction in this world is limitless. Is there a more perfect form to express all this self indulgence?
Copyright © 2007 Uriel E. Gribetz
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