What Is Noir Fiction?

Good morning, dear readers!

The Widow - a noir romantic suspense - will be released on Wednesday, August 5th. Many readers, however - unless they are long-time fans of the genre - may not be familiar with noir fiction or what it represents. My readers in particular might wonder why I would choose to write a noir crime thriller, but what can I say? I was inspired! And I do say I embrace all genres of romance...

So what is noir fiction?

From Wikipedia:
"Noir fiction (or roman noir) is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the protagonist. A typical protagonist of the Noir fiction is dealing with the legal, political or other system that is no less corrupt than the perpetrator by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or has to victimize others on a daily basis, leading to Lose-Lose situation."

Although loosely based on the exploits of the Sinaloa Cartel, whose leader drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from prison last year, the second half of The Widow gained its inspiration from a re-watching of the Hitchcock classic Notorious, although the similarities stop at mere influence. From that point on, it is written in classic noir style.

For further information on this genre, I will turn to an expert, Bill Pronzini. 

How does one define noir, or hardboiled, crime fiction?

Not easily. The labels “noir” and “hardboiled” themselves make it difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a precise definition. Both terms have been used and abused by readers, writers, and critics so long and so often that, as with most literary labels, their meanings have become blurred.

A better approach is to list some of the elements contained in the best crime stories of this type. These elements are not the only ones, of course, but they’re among the most important.
The more of them that an author incorporates into a novel or story,
 the greater its merit.

The noir crime story deals with disorder, disaffection, and dissatisfaction. Throughout the genre’s seventy-year history, this has remained a constant and central tenet. The typical noir character (if not the typical noir writer) has a jaundiced view of government, power, and the law. He (or sometimes she) is often a loner, a social misfit. If he is on the side of the angels, he is probably a cynical idealist: he believes that society is corrupt, but he also believes in justice and will make it his business to do whatever is necessary to see that justice is done. If he walks the
other side of the mean streets, he walks them at night; he is likely a predator, and as morally bankrupt as any human being can be. In the noir world, extremes are the norm. Clashes between good and evil are never petty, and good does not always triumph, nor is justice always done.

A quality noir story must emphasize character and the problems inherent in human behavior.
Character conflict is essential. The crime or threat of crime with which the story is concerned is of secondary importance.

It must be reflective of the times in which it was written, providing an accurate, honest, and realistic depiction of its locale and of the individuals who inhabit that locale.

Even more important, it must offer some insight into the social and moral climate of its time. It must, as critic David Madden once wrote, “reflect [its] world in a way that is at once an objective description and an implicit judgment of it.”
Entertainment alone is not sufficient.

Even though it involves some type of violent crime, it must not use unmotivated violence or violence for the sake of sensationalism. The mere threat of brute force is often enough.

It must have, in Benjamin Appel’s phrase, “living people talking a living language,” however harsh, cruel, or obscene these people and that language may be.

And finally, it should generate what Raymond Chandler called “a smell of fear.”

When all of these elements appear in a single work, and mesh together with a strong plot and a distinctive narrative voice, the result is a true noir classic.

About The Widow

Press Release Stunning Noir Thriller Reflects Current World Events

Available in print and eBook August 5th
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The Widow


The Novels of Colette L. Saucier

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