I hate to admit this, but I’m guilty of using the terms “hardboiled” and “noir” interchangeably. The fact that lots of people do it is no excuse. Hell, you could argue that it’s an even greater sin in my case, since I know better and do it anyway.
The tough, street-smart detective prowling the back alleys like some modern-day knight errant? Wise to the mugs and their schemes? Ready to mete out justice with fists or gun? That’s not noir. That’s hardboiled.
Noir is about losers. Not losers as in rough-edged heroes fallen on hard times and looking for one last shot at redemption. Losers as in irredeemable fuck-ups going through the motions of their preordained downfall.
In some ways, I see noir and horror as similar genres. With noir, as with horror, it’s sometimes difficult to explain the appeal to people who aren’t already fans. Stories from both genres frequently introduce not-particularly-sympathetic protagonists, then put them through the wringer. And both have a tendency to use deceptively pulpy, sensationalistic narratives to obliquely comment on social ills.
You can check out a nice little noir story for free (better yet, make a donation) at writer Erik Arneson’s Website here.
Erik Arneson is also one of the writers behind the wonderful flash fiction site “Shotgun Honey.” If you’re a fan of hardboiled, noir or just crime fiction in general, do yourself a favor and check it out.
On Arneson’s Website, you can download a comic called “Fortune,” written by Arneson with art by Dillon Samuelson, through NoiseTrade.
If you’re a noir fan, you already know the title will turn out to be ironic. It’s a story about guys stealing cooking grease, which can be converted into biodiesel fuel.
Unlike some noir, “Fortune” isn’t presented as a comprehensive dissection of modern society’s failings. It’s an intentionally low-key story about a couple of fuck-ups … well … fucking up.
I guess you could read deeper into it as an examination of how any opportunity to make a dime in our society is going to draw skeezy people looking for illicit ways to get the highest profit for the least effort. Mostly, though, it’s just a fast-paced, efficiently told, wryly funny snapshot of a decidedly unglamorous criminal enterprise.
So check it out. It’s a good read. As an added bonus — if you’re trying to lose weight, it will make you never want to eat another French fry.