Noir meets reality

Noir Writers (Laurie Dix)

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was responsible for some of the most iconic Noir films; the screenplay of Strangers on a Train, the screenplay for Double Indemnity, the novel ‘Farewell My Lovely’ (AKA Murder, My Sweet), The Big Sleep, the novel The Long Goodbye and The Blue Dahlia to name but a few.

He was a novelist and pulp fiction writer, and many of his stories (especially the better known ones) focused on the character Detective Philip Marlowe. It was Chandlers portrayal of Marlowe which led to one of the more famous Noir tropes: the first person monologue.

 Although Chandler worked only partially on most of these films, or wrote the novels but did not work on the films, he still had a massive influence on Noir as a style. The crudeness of pulp fiction meant that, in writing, it was not looked upon too seriously. The dialogue is often unrealistic and poetic, the formulas stay the same, the characters tend to be of similar ilk, but each story has its own unique voice, even if it shares the ‘feel’ of the other stories.

 Chandler also wrote an essay: ‘The Simple Art Of Murder’, an analysis and critique of contemporary literature and a discussion on writing fiction. It also discusses noir, detective stories and the formulas and techniques used therein.

 

James M. Cain

Journalist and Author James Mallahan Cain is often cited as one of the creators of Roman Noir/Hardboiled crime fiction. Cain wrote the original novels of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, amongst others. Although Cain denied that he ever tried to write in the Hardboiled genre, rather considering himself a character author. His vision was to write characters who could be anyone. His characters were the everyman, and his Cain merely attempted to hold a mirror up to American society and write as he saw. Cain also had a passion for music, which inspired some of his later novels. Although a seminal author in his field, Cain did not work on many films, only having a few credits to his name, mostly as ‘Additional Dialogue’. Cain inspired some of the best known Noir works, and inspired many of his contemporaries.

 

Dashiell Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was active earlier than many of the more commonly known Noir authors, and a lot of the work they produced is often attributed to him. Hammetts work is often autobiographical, drawing from his own experiences as a Pinkerton. His best known works include The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key, although authors such as Raymond Chandler are often compared to him, due to his realistic approach and trademark similes which have become a recognised trope of Noir films. Whereas a lot of science fiction during the 30s was based around the fear of communism, Hammett was a left wing activist and member of a communist group which opposed the war until 1941, with the German invasion of of the USSR.

 

Cornell Woolrich

Cornell George Hopley Woolrich AKA George Hopley AKA William Irish was one of the most prolific crime writers of his time, although he was not as active in the Hollywood adapations of his films. He was inspired strongly by H.G. Wells and F. Scott Fitzgerald and a lot of his earlier work reflected this. His later works, when he began to get more involved in the writing of Crime Drama pulp fiction, were numerous and many of them were made into films: perhaps most famously François Truffauts ‘The Bride Wore Black’ and Alfred Hitchcocks ‘Rear Window’ (which in turn was inspired by H.G. Wells’ ‘Through a Window’). Woolrich, although arriving later on the scene than most other Hardboiled authors, wrote more stories in this style than any of his contemporaries, which makes him incredibly important to Noir.

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