Friday, April 4, 2014

David Goodis - Down There (1956)

And you thought, Is this the answer? Is this what you're slated for? Well, maybe so. Maybe Clifton has you tagged, with your hands that can't make music any more making cash the easy way. With a gun. You know they use guns. You braced for that? You hard enough for that?

-Down There (aka Shoot the Piano Player, David Goodis, 1956)

image: Tirez Sur le Pianiste (Francois Truffaut, 1960)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Quick Review - Pulp Culture by Woody Haut

Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War (1995)
by Woody Haut

"Representing the disfunction of a nation in transition, paranoia was so potent a subtext it blurred the narrative of both text and nation, causing readers and writers to lose track of plot and historical context. This was less disastrous for pulp culture fiction, concentrating as it does on culture, characterization and narrative progression, than for 'whodunnits', preoccipied with plot, linearity, order and detection.

Though it is futile to connect specific pulp culture texts to specific events, the relationship between text and era is more than metaphorical."  p.16

Woody Haut's excellent survey of the pulp culture landscape - neatly defined as the narrative tradition that emerged from pulp magazines of the twenties, continued through hardboiled writers of the thirties and forties, and overflowed in cheap paperbacks of the fifties and early sixties - is a book that walks a number of fine lines. First of all, that between breadth and depth. While it takes in any number of lesser and greater figures from the pulp landscape, Haut wisely focuses on the more important writers within certain strands: The paranoia of Goodis, Himes and Thompson, for example, or Leigh Brackett, Dolores Hitchens and Dorothy Hughes while examining women hardboiled writers. As well as an excellent introduction, other chapters include the politics and finances of private detection, social critique in the crime novel, and the end of the era when real life finally caught up with pulp style.

While making explicit the connections between culture and text, Haut never stretches the material too far. Taking in film but concentrating on the writers, this text also succesfully navigates the tightrope of scholarly style and readability - the book is well referenced throughout, with plenty of primary and secondary sources to back up his assertions. He maintains an easy-going tone throughout, and the book never drags. Writers are examined within context and important books described and pulled apart with a neatness and thouroughness that make this book essential for anybody interested in the books themselves, the writers, and especially the cultural background of the times and the two-way process of influence: literature on the nation, and, mostly, the nation on literature.

Communism, economics and paranoia have always featured in pulp culture, and Haut lays bare many of the relationships between these elements and the many personalities behind the texts, as well as within the books themselves. An excellent, fascinating and comprehensive read.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Le Samourai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)


Notice the girl in the painting looking impassively (disapprovingly?) over his shoulder as he shoots the club owner.

Trivia fans: Melville was the director's code name while fighting with the resistance during WW2. He chose it after his favourite author, Herman, and kept it as a stage name after the war.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

QOTM: Devil in a Blue Dress - Walter Mosley

I was a proud man that day; my fall wasn't far behind.
-Devil in a Blue Dress
Walter Mosley

(Denzel Washington in the film of the same name: 1995)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

QOTM: Murder in Blue - Paul Cain

Her smile melted to  a quick, rather drunken, laugh. "Do I have to poison any babies?" She stood up, poured a drink.
Druse said: "That's one of the things I don't want you to do."
She picked up the glass, frowned at him with mock seriousness. "You're a moralist," she said. "That's one of the things I will do."

Murder In Blue - Paul Cain 
(From the collection Seven Slayers)

Rita Hayworth publicity still for Gilda from The Love Goddess.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Cars...


"I sat there without saying anything for about a mile. Just waiting. It wasn't just the cigarette smoke in this car, or the hot air from the heater, either. You could taste the trouble that had been going on between these two."
The Red Scarf - Gil Brewer

Dark Passage
Double Indemnity
Kiss Me Deadly
The Hitchhiker

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What the hell?

It's been a little while, but I have been busy.

After several years SO and I decided to leave South Korea. The time was right. I was fed up with having spare time, few responsibilities, and lots of spare cash in my pockets. So, after a 36 hour journey (never try to bring dogs to the bastard UK - just never) and a month of practical - not actual - homelessness, I have turned up in south London. And I'm a student to boot. Yay.

So now I have more spare time, fewer responsibilities, and no spare cash. And it's cold. And nobody in this damn country has any idea how to build insulated housing and then they charge 200x too much for a space almost big enough for me to stretch my feet out. Bastards.

London, eh?

Anyway, I'm still pretty busy with my master's degree, but I'll be posting reviews, views, and all things noirboiled, as often as I can.