Monday, November 16, 2009

Wisconsin noir: Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, Part 3

(Megan Abbott, F. Paul Wilson, J.A. Konrath, Joe Schmidt, Ann Voss Peterson)

Laura Lippman said something else I liked during her Murder and Mayhem in Muskego discussion with Jan Burke: "My pitch is, in the next year, read something out of your comfort zone."

Burke herself talked about the first line of her novel Goodnight, Irene. The line — He loved to watch fat women dance — deserves a place on any list of evocative openings, and Burke said the line gave birth to the book. "Two people and a plot in that line," she said.

In his own interview session, F. Paul Wilson said we might be in a second Golden Age of crime fiction. His evidence? The proliferation of graphic novels and noir.

Noir came up, too, in an informal chat at Casa Jordan. We threw out names of authors we thought wrote noir, and three of the first names among current writers were women: Megan Abbott, Vicki Hendricks and Christa Faust. What this means, I don't know, but their writing has that delicious, doom-laden embrace of the dark side that defines noir for me. Who else has it? Paul Cain and Jean-Patrick Manchette come to mind, and perhaps Yasmina Khadra as well.

Who is noir for you, and why?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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13 Comments:

Blogger Fred said...

In spite of past experience, I still find it surprising when I encounter an SF writer who also writes mysteries, or vice-versa.

The most recent is your post in which you mention F. Paul Wilson. About a week ago, I just finished reading Wilson's SF novel, _Dydeetown World_. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised because the main character is a PI.

Does the opening of the novel sound familiar?

"Couldn't place her face at once, but you don't hardly ever see white skin like that. Then it came to me. Seen her before in the flesh. The too-blonde hair, the too-white skin, the puggish face. Hard to forget her even if, like me, you weren't particularly attracted to the look despite the way she filled out the dark blue clingsuit.
...
Suddenly became interested in my desktop where a few cockroach droppings adhered to the surface. Flicked one off as I told her..."

I wonder if there's the same overlap with Westerns.

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Genre-jumping is always a surprise even though a number of writers do it. F. Paul Wilson was not the only author at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego who crosses the line. James O. Born talked about The Human Disguise, a sci-fi/police/fantasy novel he wrote under the name James O'Neal. His premise is that twenty years in the future, all kinds of trends that get people excited now have come true. Police forces have consolidated into one. Quarantine zones are everywhere. Population is dropping. It sounds like a hell of a story.

Authors like China Mieville, Jeff Vandermeer and Jonathan Mayberry jump boundaries, and then there are comics writers, Alan Moore preeminent among them. Watchmen is a murder mystery, among other things, and Top Ten is a wonderfully entertaining futuristic police tale in the Hill Street Blues/Ed McBain mode.

The overlap with Westerns is deeply ingrained in American crime fiction, going back to the Hammett- and Chandler-era tales of PIs cleaning up lawless towns.

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But you were probably asking about authors who write crime and Westerns. Perhaps Bill Crider qualifies. Brian Garfield wrote both, and Donald Westlake wrote a Western or two.

On the sci-fi side, Fredric Brown is a classic example of a writer who did good work in crime and science fiction.

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

Along with Fredric Brown is also the little known Anthony Boucher who also wrote a few mysteries on the side. [g]

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The slideshows at Casa Jordan, mostly snapshots from previous Bouchercons and Murder and Mayhems in Muskego, included an old black-and-white shot of Boucher. At Bouchercon this year, at least one person asked who Anthony Boucher was. Here’s a bit about him.

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

Unfortunately, at an SF convention, there will be those who would ask the same question--Who is Anthony Boucher?

Thanks for the bio of Boucher. It contained much I didn't know.

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Likewise. I had to ask who he was when I first heard about Bouchercon. There is an undercurrent of discussion in crime-fiction circles about crossing genre and media boundaries -- between crime and fantasy or sci-fi, or between novels and comics, for instance. Perhaps this will lead to renewed interest in Boucher.

November 17, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

A renewed interest in Boucher would require considerable interest and activity in converting his stories into film or perhaps comics. He wrote mostly short stories in SF.

He's probably best known in SF for being one of the founders of _The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction_, one of the best of the SF mags, in my opinion anyway.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if science-fiction readers remember Boucher. I didn't know of his science-fiction connection until well after I learned of the crime-fiction convention named for him. Perhaps sci-fi readers know his magazine even if they don't know his name.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

It's hard to say, but I suspect only those SF readers who have been around for three or four decades would know his name.

His magazine is still around-with a slight name change from _The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction_ to _Fantasy and Science Fiction_.

I have one book by him: _The Compleat Werewolf_, a collection of his short stories. I also have the 2 volume copy of an anthology he edited: _A Treasury of Great SF_, and it is a treasury.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Just as many crime-fiction readers could probably identify Black Mask without recognizing the name of "Cap" Joseph Shaw.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

Definitely. I recognize Black Mask, but I've never heard of "Cap" Joseph Shaw.

I guess that he's associated founding Black Mask. Is he a writer also?

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think he came in after H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan sold Black Mask. He brought in Hammett and Chandler, and I believe it was under his leadership that the magazine shifted more exclusively to crime from a broader range of popular fiction. It may have been Shaw as well who dropped the "The" from the magazine's title.

In any case, the point was that Boucher's contributions may be remembered even if his name is not.

November 18, 2009  

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