Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hard-boiled versus Noir

Okay, so I thought I was going to put a 'taste' of the first Turner and Frank novel in today. Not yet. Still working on that little exercise. Instead, I thought I'd explore the difference between a 'hard-boil' detective novel and a 'noir' novel.

So what's the difference between the two?

Turns out there's is a significant difference. In a generalized kind of way.

In the simplest of terms, 'hard-boiled' means a tough son of a bitch has been asked to solve a crime. Someone like a Sam Spade or a Phillip Marlowe--if you're old enough to know who the hell created those two 'classic' bums.

A detective is hired to solve a crime. He's tough, sarcastic, an all-around wise ass and as durable as nails. What also seems to be a common thread is the guy/gal is somewhat of a loner and as honest as a Saharan sun is unrelentingly bright. And he (or she--although I find it, personally, hard to swallow a 'hard-boiled' female detective like the one Susan Parentsky writes) works on a personal Code of Honor.

The Law may be one thing which can be side-stepped and generously altered in order to reach that unreachable goal called Justice. But the detective's Code of Honor is set in hardened cement. He never waivers. Generally speaking.

Noir fiction is, as one pundit once said, "A novel where you're screwed and you know it."

Noir fiction has someone taking the fall for a crime they may or may not have committed. They've been set up. Framed. Used as a fall guy. The writing, like that found in a hard-boiled novel, is sparse and clean, with very little frills. Perhaps 'gloomy' and 'paranoid' would be other descriptives that would fit the bill.

Generally speaking, the poor bastard who is the main character hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell. He's toast. Dead meat. The only wiggle-room left for him is to find the real culprits and exonerate himself. Or die trying--which is, for some writers, the only option.

In my novel, Murderous Passions, although not strictly a 'hard-boiled' novel since it has two cops as its central chracters, nevertheless paint 'hard-boiled' in as the general color. Two wise-ass, hard as nails, Code of Honor type of cops who like their jobs. They like bringing creeps to justice. It will remind you of a classic novel of bygone days. It'll give you a dark, gloomy sense like a good noir. So it's kinda a combination of both.

Or, at least, I like to think so. Find it at

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