Crime fiction is easily and readily sliced up into sub-genres, especially these days. We have the cozy, the murder- mystery, the detective story, the police procedural, the hardboiled. Or the social realism of Brit Grit, which wears its dark heart on its blood-stained sleeve like a call to arms to the dispossessed, disenfranchised and desperate.
And it’s also categorised by country too – Scandinavian crime, for example, is expected to have a very different flavour to the Italian or French variety.
Noir, though, to quote Spinetingler Magazine’s Brian Lindenmuth is ‘more like a style of fiction’. More elusive, perhaps. Like a murder glimpsed from the steamy window of a passing train.
The origins of ‘noir’ as a definition of a sharp sliver of crime fiction goes back to the mid-1940s when the French publisher Marcel Duhamel cleverly packaged American pulp fiction – from the likes of Raymond Chandler, James M Cain, Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich – in black covers, as the imprint Série noire. And since then it has also been tied like a noose to the cinematic versions of those books. Films that painted the world with light and pitch black shadows.
Ostensibly crime fiction – or skirting its razor edge – noir is a taste that’s as black and bitter as an espresso or a shot of moonshine-whisky. Noir, for me, is all about mood. And a dark mood at that because, as Otto Penzler once said, ‘noir is about losers’. For writers and fans of noir, we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the abyss between the stars.
© Paul D Brazill.
This is the introduction to the crime anthology ‘Maybe I Should Just Shot You In The Face?’
Paul D. Brazill is the author of Man of the World, Last Year’s Man, A Case Of Noir, and Kill Me Quick. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8, 10 and 11.