William Thomas's Reviews > The Cutie

The Cutie by Donald E. Westlake
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's review
Oct 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: bad-asses-doing-bad-ass-things, pulp
Read in October, 2011

Let's get a few things straight. Some things are not noir. Some things are better classified simply as pulp. Or crime.
Or thriller. If we were being true to form, we would be using the term 'hardboiled' when referring to the literature
that closely resembles film noir. Because Noir is a sub-genre of film that refers to a very specific style of post-WWII
film. Somehow, it has become a way to refer to any book that even remotely resembles the detective story prototype.
This just isn't right. I want to be a stickler here. I want to be very specific. I want some Wittgenstein-ian definition.
Hardboiled fiction has punchy dialogue, sometimes jazzy, overt sexuality, ambivalence to violence, severly brutal, a largely cynical
narrator, one or more femme fatale(s), and more often than not, has first-person narration.

And even though this book fits some of the criteria, I'd be hard pressed to call this hardboiled. That isn't a slight against
the book or against Westlake himself. This is a pulp work of the highest order.

Donald Westlake is probably best known for his Dormunder novels. Which were, on the whole, ridiculously mediocre and overly long. He also wrote under the name Richard Stark and created the best hardboiled fiction of his life. In The Cutie, we get some of the same Stark flavors and none of the Dortmunder lackluster. I just wish that Westlake had produced more of these types of books and laid off a little on the Drowned Hopes type novels.

Grade: B
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message 1: by Jim (last edited Apr 30, 2017 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Davis I'm not sure what point you are trying to make with your definitions of noir and hardboiled. There is a good description by George Tuttle at - http://noirfiction.info/what.html

The concept of film noir that came from the French trying to describe American movies of the 1940's about crime, mystery, gangsters and private detectives is a specific use of a term that was already being used to describe a certain type of written fiction. The French first coined it to describe early British gothic fiction and in the 20's and 30's was used to describe the hardboiled fiction in American pulp magazines of that time. In America it gradual changed to describe a more narrow style of crime/mystery fiction where the main characters are often victims of a corrupt system and their own inability to deal honestly and morally with the situation. The result is often a lose-lose situation. They can be criminals who become victims of the world they operate in or sometimes just people down on their luck.


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