Frank's Reviews > They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy
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's review
Apr 26, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: thrillers-and-other-pulp
Read on April 26, 2010

Brilliant! The best of the American pulp fictions I've recently read. More an allegory than anything else, with the dance marathon as a weird rat race metaphor for all of society (a skewered send up of the old Elizabethan idea of the dance symbolizing the ultimate social order), cast in the gritty realistic hard-boiled style of 30s fiction. McCoy is the only writer of noir fiction I've encountered so far who has his characters swear realistically, rather than in typical Hollywood speak. Yes, they do say 'Hey what's the big idea?', but Gloria doesn't mince words -- even if McCoy was obliged still to print it as f-- and p--k with dashes.

Anyhow - so far I quite like all of the novels in the LoA 'American Noir' volumes, but this one really is a little masterpiece. Even the usual lack of psychological plausibility of some of the crimes doesn't jar in this novel, because if the narrator's shooting of Gloria doesn't make sense entirely on a psychological level, it does on the social/metaphoric level, serving to underline the allegorical/symbolic dimensions of the narrative.

(And what's with all the abortion references in all of these novels? Non-judgemental as these references generally are, it would seem American society was ready for legalization of abortion long before it came to pass.)
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