Friday, June 10, 2011

Reading noir fiction is getting me all illuminated

Publication approved.
I've spent the past week or two reading "handsome paperbacks" published by Hard Case Crime, an imprint that puts out paperback mysteries/noirs from new authors as well as classic tales from the 50s and such. I have Pornokitsch - one of the best review sites for geek/nerd/dork paraphernalia - to thank for tipping me onto them. The experience is one I should wish to lather, rinse and repeat.

Until this point, I hadn't really seen the allure of mysteries; and it's possible you could say I still don't, in one sense, since I'm not exactly flipping my reading/writing preference from "F&SF" to "M." But I do now "get" why people read these books, and understand that these books are worth reading, and, without further ado, it's been a blast to enjoy them for myself - for two reasons.

One, they're awesome. Hard Case Crime has yet to disappoint me. Partly, this may be because I'm new to the genre, and certain little gooferies - like two-dimensional villainesses, and generally shallow protrayals of women all around - I can laugh off, insofar as I'm a novice to the club and I haven't yet seen how the club next door is a lot nicer (proverbially speaking). Contrarily, when I read a fantasy novel, the writer's got a lot of work to do to impress me - because I've seen this, this and that already, and I'm about to go for it again. Still, I'm generally impressed with Hard Case's authors: the works are short (me like), fast-paced (me also like), and deliver satisfying tales with good apotheoses (also also like).

But the other reason it's good to read this stuff is just simply that I don't read this stuff. It's a blast to pack away some enjoyable fiction that's written in a realm I don't quite understand. The fact that this is still a "genre" definitely weighs on the tomes: I can smell the capital-M mystery shelves from which they have come. But that's in a good way, and the various structures, dialogues, archetypes and techniques that these authors use are handy material for expanding my own vocabulary of style. Much as I love fantasy and sci fi, you've got to get beyond your comfort zone sometimes - especially when you get really, really picky about your comfort zone.

Although, in a cosmic irony - or, whatever - it was fantasy that turned me on to noir in the first place. Although Pornokitsch gave me the necessary tools, the inspiration was drawn down when I read in an interview that Joe Abercrombie was reading a bunch of noirs before he got cracking on his First Law trilogy. I, being an enormous fan-boy, decided to do the same.

Because, y'know, I've got a best-selling fantasy series awaiting me in the near future.



  1. "You've got to get beyond your comfort zone sometimes" -- I'm guilty of sticking mainly to my own speculative genre when it comes to reading. I need to branch out more often. And "literary SF" doesn't count!

  2. Hats off to you for venturing out of our comfort zone. I've only read a few of the Hard Case books, but they definitely satisfy, in the way that candy satisfies. I do tend to prefer the more "literary" fiction, which most noir tends to be. But if I need some straight up crime or mystery, Hard Case delivers.