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message 1: by Jay (new)

Jay Gertzman | 262 comments I read recently that Orson Welles once describes American crime drama as “failure stories” of personal fateful choices . The old corrupt cop he played in A Touch of Evil had run out of future. Charles Williams’ Hot Spot and the Brewer novels like those we will choose among for February are certainly failure stories. Really, if Charles Foster Kane was fated to search from childhood onward for security, so were The Hot Spot’s Maddox and Three Way Split’s Jack. The latter was literary bedeviled by his domineering, crooked father. He had one chance to stop toadying to snooty tourists. The former could not stop himself from taking the bank money, with the result: the woman he adored rejected him and he had to spend the rest of his life hopelessly gazing at her. In both cases these guys were striving to overcome the obstacles of their “forth class ticket” handed them by a fate beyond their control. And anyone who reads The Vengeful Virgin will note how,early on, Brewer describes Jack’s appalling past. Failure, i.e. noir, stories about family, class, and culture. Protagonists tortured by their American dreams.


message 2: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 828 comments Mod
Jay wrote: "I read recently that Orson Welles once describes American crime drama as “failure stories” of personal fateful choices . The old corrupt cop he played in A Touch of Evil had run out of future. Char..."

Interesting observation, particularly that it came from Welles; I suppose his masterpiece - Citizen Kane certainly qualifies as a "failure story." Though Kane made money, he failed in every other aspect of his life. I'm wondering if we, as readers, prefer these stories not only for the intense drama, but also for the schadenfreude-like pleasure of watching someone else fail.

Thanks for posting this, Jay.


message 3: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 539 comments Mod
Shoot the Piano Player I think belongs in this category, too


message 4: by Jay (new)

Jay Gertzman | 262 comments Very much so, Algernon. Goodis has several protagonists who start out talented and successful, but then they encounter one dread circumstance that causes a great fall from grace as concert pianist, airline pilot, or star pop singer. They have to play piano in an underclass bar, or drink rotgut on the steps of a flophouse. Fate, as in Woolrich and so many other writers for a mass American readership, finds one weak spot in an average, well-intentioned guy or gal's armor and causes Job-like suffering.


message 5: by Jay (new)

Jay Gertzman | 262 comments Melki wrote: "Jay wrote: "I read recently that Orson Welles once describes American crime drama as “failure stories” of personal fateful choices . The old corrupt cop he played in A Touch of Evil had run out of ..."

Definitely, Melki-- a typical reader's 2-sided response to pulp crime is "I wish I were him/her; I'm glad I'm not him/her."


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