Thursday, 7 October 2010

Crime/Noir. Why?

I'm getting a bit obsessed with this crime/noir thing.  Want to read every book, watch every film, write, write, write.  And it got me thinking.  What is it about this particular genre that is hooking me in so hard?

When I was a kid, I read loads of fantasty stuff - Tolkein, Donaldson, Brooks.  And loads more.  Played Dungeons and Dragons till it became more real than life itself.  I can look back and understand that - the fantasy stuff.  A kid, retreating from the reality of a world around him, a world he struggles to understand into a wonderful realm of elves and magic and dragons and stuff.  I get that.  It makes sense.

I am forty-one now.  And the crime/noir stuff, particularly the noir aspect, just seems so vital to me.  It's like there is something here beyond the words, beyond the pictures.  And as I write this, I think I'm slowly getting it. 

At forty-one years old, it's unlikely I'll ever play football for England.  My beloved Dagenham, perhaps, if we fall on hard times, but England is probably out of the question.  I have three beautiful children.  A lovely wife.  A little house.  I have all these things yet I am struggling to find something that defines me.  I write.  I love writing.  I've had a bit of luck with getting some things published, but there is a huge amount of my own path of self-discovery in everything I write.  I've been aware almost from the start the writing is more of an exercise in self-analysis than purely the writing of a story.

So is that it?  Am I at that stage of my life where I am seeking a meaning to it all?  All that Jungian stuff?

The world of noir seems to be entirely populated by the lonely and the lost, the confused and the beaten.  Am I immersing myself in this world because I identify with these characters, so much so that I give voice to that part of myself by writing my own stories about them?

Perhaps.  Or perhaps this is just another day of thinking too hard because I've not yet had enough coffee.


  1. I think you hit it proper on the noggin. I see noir as the broken underbelly of a world we pretend to ignore. With writing it you can put breath into the beaten and see what happens. I'm reading the Big Sleep for the first time. I bought The Complete Raymond Chandler Collection about ten years ago and found it wasn't that 'complete' So now I get the joy of a new book.

  2. Ah, a fellow traveller :) Glad my caffeine deprived musings hit a bit of a spot, Lee.

    And 'The Big Sleep'. Just finished reading it for the first time last night. I know now what Nick Quantrill said to me a few days back about avoiding reading too much Chandler in fear of getting sucked into mimicking him. Would have to say, Chandler is now my hero. And it is proper writing too. Proper literature. His similies are just out of this world. Incredible stuff. Got 'Farewell, My Lovely' next, then 'The Long Goodbye'. It's like it's Christmas already :)

  3. Great post, Ian. I'm not sure what has attracted me so much to crime/noir fiction either... though I think you're onto something about relating to the desperate/lonely characters in this genre.

    And I think that there are a lot of really vital stories being told in this genre now and in the past. Maybe because the characters are always up against a wall, always clawing their way out of some terrible scenario--it opens up a lot of interesting possibilities.

  4. I think it may be more Freudian. We like this genre because its more gritty. . . more down into the depths of the jungle .. of surviving on one's wits and the smell of blood always in our nostrils.

    We feel more alive when we're desperate. Being married to a lovely woman, having beautiful cildren, having a good job and living in a nice house--that's our safety net. That's our reality.

    Ah! But what we want. . .

  5. That underdog thing, as sort of English working class national trait, is definitely an aspect, Chris. And that identifying, that identifying with the characters - populating your inner world with like-minded souls, even if they are completely made up.

    And B.R. Think you've got it. From a qualified counsellor and Freud devotee, I'd say you're bang on. The Freudian death instinct. Jung's Shadow. It's all there.

    Nice thinking, chaps.

  6. I think if you've been in that underbelly (I guess that's as good a word as any) then you write about it because when you're down there, there are a few (very few) moments of beauty (some savage but still beautiful) that almost make up for where you are and even though you dug your way out, you want to chronicle their existence without diminishing the horror of the darkness where they occurred.

  7. You've nailed it there, AJ. It is that beauty in the darkness, isn't it, that sears the soul, where the depth of truth cuts us in two. And once you've experienced that kind of beauty, nothing else can touch it.