Friday, 24 September 2010

American Crime/Noir v British Crime/Noir. Discuss.

An open question, this one.  Having made some great friends in recent months in the crime/noir scene, from both sides of the pond, it go me thinking.  I'm wondering if there are any differences, subtle or otherwise, in American crime/noir and English crime/noir writing?  There is a perception, cynical or otherwise, that Americans love their car chases and their whizz-bang shoot-outs, whilst the Englilsh, sorry British, are more inclined to introspection.  A provocative question, perhaps, but I'd be really interested in your thoughts on this.

Having read some brilliant crime/noir stuff on the net the last couple of months that, for me at least, debunks that argument I'm still left wondering what your personal approaches/motivations are.  B.R. mentioned yesterday the concept of justice is very important in his writing.

What are yours?  And lets see if there is a difference between the two nations, eh :)


  1. So, what you're saying is Brit Grit crime fiction is closer to a social realist Ken Loach film while American crime fiction is more like Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse? Mebbes.But ...

    Almost all the crime fiction- in fact almost all fiction, Ford, Carver, Bukowski - that I've read for the last 20 years has been American. Willford, Highsmith, Thompson, James M Cain. - Not a lot of KISS KISS BANG BANG there. The slow burn of Dave Zelsterman's Killer. Megan Abbot's Die A Little.

    These last two years it's been great discovering BRIT GRIT like Ray Banks, Nick Quantrill & Tony Black but this is quite recent thing, I think. The American's have been doing the brooding, moody stuff for a long time.

  2. Just a provative question, Paul ;-)

    I had no idea the Brits were so recently in on the scene. All the names you mentioned - both Americans and Brits - are on my list. I look forward to be better informed about the genre I've fallen into after the reading of them.

    And, yep. Can't knock the shorts I've read from both sides of the Atlantic. Like a little fraternity spanning the seas, likeminded lads and lasses wandering about in the same dark places. Tis why I love it so.

    I know await an onslaught from my American friends, readying to put me right . . .

    Cheers, Paul. Your words and insights are always most enlightening.

  3. Well, the Brits' have had Derk Raymond, Ted Lewis and Ken Bruen but a lot of our stuff was done as police procedurals. Some good stuff, mind you. Val McDermid, Rankin .

  4. Got my first Ken Bruen from the library the other day, and remember watching Get Carter as a kid. Must admit to being heinously under-read in the genre, something I'm desperately trying to put right.

    And it's that brooding intensity you refer to Paul, that I've noticed in every American short I've read. There's a sort of dangerous quality to the writing that I find really gripping.

    Looking at it a different way, then. Motivation. When BR mentioned Justice yesterday, I found it a particularly American sentiment. BR does it brilliantly in his stuff, but Justice is really nowhere near the top of the list of my motivations. I suppose mine is just to present something as real - unvarnished. I wonder what others are, and if there is a difference. Is it to shock? Disturb? To simply tell a story? Or entertain? Entertain, also would be right down the bottom of my list.

    Would be fascinated to read what drives the writers I have grown to so admire over the last few months.

  5. Oh golly, don't use my writing as a barometer for how Americans write their noir. Although occasionally James Patterson . . . and certainly Ed McBain . . . liked a little justice (as I do) I would say the majority of others just like to write about the mean, dark side of the human spirit where there is no justic. Just greed and revenge. What I'm desperately trying to do is blend the flavors of Ed McBain's police-procedurals in with the gritty darkness of Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe character. Still working on it.

  6. And I love that, B.R. The moving from the extremes to the reality. A darkness that contains hope, a drop of humanity, sometimes just a single drop, floating on the grease-laden tide. Surely, if we are to represent real people in real situations, it is a case of encompassing it all. Just my view.

    And I'll be learning more about Philip Marlowe, B.R. once the postie gets his arse into gear and brings me them books :)

  7. I think you'll love Chandler (who was American-born, but raised in England. And served in the Canadian Royal Air Force -- I think -- in World War One)

  8. Don't forget Gerald Kersh, who wrote his NIGHT AND THE CITY back in the 30s. Also Alexander Baron, whose THE LOWLIFE I've always found pretty noir. Both Brits.

  9. More names for the list. Cheers, Charlie. And, Royston is back. That is just fantastic news. Will be posting a thing on here tomorrow when the CF link goes up.

    Well done, mate.

  10. Alright, then we'll have Patrick Hamilton & Colin Wilson.