Monday, January 15, 2007

Greetings

It’s such a pleasure to contribute to The Rap Sheet. Everyone has their story of finding the book, movie, or other artifact that somehow spoke to them, becoming a permanent influence or touchstone, and for me it was first uncovering the gritty and glamorous world of film noir. These were among the first movies I saw as a kid, sitting in front of the television on Saturday mornings. First, I came upon the canonical, especially Double Indemnity, which has a deathless power to transfix me (and countless others) to this day. From there, I fumbled my way through Out of the Past and Gilda towards Detour, Black Angel, Phantom Lady, The Locket, Fallen Angel, and on and on. Other than an adolescence-born love of James Ellroy, I didn’t come upon hard-boiled or noir fiction until graduate school, when I picked up a copy of The Postman Always Rings Twice and, as they say, I was hooked for life. As a means of justifying my reader’s tour through the hard-boiled and noir canon, I decided to write my dissertation on the subject and, eventually, still lovestruck, tried my hand at a novel in that vein myself. I’d imagine the source of my fascination is the source of many fans’.

For me, hard-boiled and noir both bring to life a corner of my imagination that, theretofore, I thought was mine alone. The world they paint may not be, exactly (Chandler to the contrary) the world we live in, but it’s a world we carry inside, a world of dark alleys, low ceilings, the faint sound of ice cubes and swooning jazz slipping under doorways, the weight of the past heavy in every step, the sense of danger, doom, and helpless love around every corner.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me, it was Sunday afternoons watching hardboiled and noir films like THE MALTESE FALCON, and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. I would be very disappointed if a particular Sunday turned out to be something other than hardboiled.

And I think you make an excellent point: it evokes a private world, a private wish or hope perhaps, that is carried internally. This internal "view" enables the hardboiled writer to see those elements in the real world. And often those views are psychological or sociological elementally.

Unknown said...

Great post. And funny you mention Cain, Megan. I was just reading John Williams' BACK TO THE BADLANDS, which features a chapter on Vicki Hendricks, and it was POSTMAN that turned her on, too.

For me, weirdly enough, it was Cain's MILDRED PIERCE, which is almost a friggin' soap opera, that flipped the noir lightswitch in my head. (Along with Joe Lansdale's COLD IN JULY and Robert Ferrigno's HORSE LATITUDES.)

Megan Abbott said...

Oh yes, I love MILDRED PIERCE--it's always been funny to me that they felt the need to organize the movie around a murder, when the book is already plenty dark--yet in the strangest way. The mother-daughter relationship alone ... Laura Lippman wrote a great piece about it for Slate earlier in the year.

Anonymous said...

Welcome Megan. Looking forward to the posts and looking forward to meeting you on Jan 27th in Thousand Oaks.

Megan Abbott said...

Oh, likewise, Aldo--I'm so glad I'll have the chance to meet you!

Allan Guthrie said...

Anecdotally, at least, Cain would appear to be a writers writer. Big influence on me, too.

Al

Anonymous said...

Me too. But POSTMAN. I didn't know you were allowed to write books that good in that many pages. Also Thompson - as per usual, THE KILLER INSIDE ME.

I dunno, it just seemed like a familiar story. Then again, I did have an Uncle Lou, but we don't really talk about him.

Anonymous said...

Welcome, Megan. Great posts. Maybe you should start a blog of your own.

Anonymous said...

For me, I think it was The Thin Man that grabbed me first. That Myrna Loy.

And then it was on to The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. By the time I was 10 I wanted a fedora and a .38 and a dame hanging on one arm.

Looking forward to your book, Megan. Hoping to catch you at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood next weekend.