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But it was with the publication of Jack's Return Home that made Lewis a bestselling author and, importantly, for us crime fiction readers, created the British noir school of writing. Jack's Return Home is set in [unnamed] Scunthorpe and is a staggering counter to the traditional British crime story. Jack Carter is an enforcer for a London mob family. He returns home after the death of his brother. The circumstances of the death are suspicious and Jack starts to look into it. In this he runs afoul of the local criminal element who are allied with his London bosses.
He is warned off but can't let go. Jack Carter isn't a nice person. He's amoral, violent, ruthless, and misogynistic and quite unlike any protagonist preceding him. He is a classic noir protagonist, ultimately doomed by his own actions.
J ack Carter's Law was well received but J ack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon is considered a much lesser book, written to pay the bills. The doomed noir protagonist is George Fowler, a London pornographer. Pornography also features in Jack's Return Home. Fowler is a paranoid psychopath who;s story is a descent into into madness.
It is set in Mablethorpe, a seaside town where Lewis and his second wife lived for a time. There is an interesting section in Getting Carter on the filming of Getting Carter. Lewis' contribution consists of noting that it is based on his book.
It moves the action to Newcastle, an area the directors knows well amd makes other changes to the story but you know you are watching Jack's Return Home. Michael Caine is brilliant as Jack Carter though he doesn't much resemble the book's. Jack Carter. Lewis had hoped to write the screenplay but apparently was never considered. Given that this was Mike Hodges' first feature film and was produced in a very short time 10 months from concept to completion it probably couldn't have handled a new director and new scriptwriter at the same time.
It wasn't promoted very well but has since become acknowledged as a masterwork of noir film.
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As with the book, if you haven't seen the film and like film noir, you need to see it immediately. Raymond Robin Cook is his real name is another Brit Noir author. He knew Lewis and owes a debt to him for his nameless detective in the Department of Unexplained Deaths, aka The Factory. My search for a definition of noir arose after I read the first books by two authors who appear on lists of Nordic noir. When I started looking at what constitutes noir I discovered almost immediately that I was guilty of putting hard-boiled and noir stories as the same sub-genre.
In fact, I was pretty liberal as to what I called noir. Now Penzler has some serious credentials. Noir evolved from the hard-boiled detectives that Dashiell Hammett defined in Black Mack Magazine in the s. The hard-boiled detective might be tough and use questionable means but at the end of the day has a moral center, a code of ethics.
Chandler famously wrote about the detective:. Noir stories are existential and nihilistic and the characters doomed because they lack morality. Penzler unequivocally says that the hard-boiled and noir sub-genres of crime fiction are philosophically opposed to each other. There are no happy endings in noir. By now you might be having unsettling thoughts about our beloved crime fiction, what have I been reading. Dave Zeltserman sums it up nicely:.
It seems like their must be but I can only think of one from recent reading. In his article, 'Writing in the Darkness: the World of Cornell Woolrich', Eddie Duggan further distinguishes between hard-boiled and noir:. Here are links to the resources all of whichI consulted and some shamelessly copied from:. Banks, Ray— Noir is for Losers. Click on cover to view on Amazon Keywords: crime fiction, Harlem Detective series, noir, detective, Black crime authors , detective fiction The Real Cool Killers is the second book in the Harlem Detective series.
By this third book the two detectives are decidedly front and center. A white man has been killed in Harlem, shot in the head after a dramatic chase down Lenox Avenue pursued by Sonny, high on marajuana, and firing a pistol at the running man.
Sonny, still holding his gun, is naturally arrested and handcuffed. When they attempt to search the Moslems, the gang taunt the detectives. One of them, Caleb, makes the tragic mistake of throwing a liquid on Coffin Ed which triggers a blind rage and PTSD flashback when acid was thrown in his face see A Rage in Harlem and Ed shoots and kills the boy.
Since it was a white man killed in Harlem, all the police brass show up and the Chief suspends Coffin Ed though it is more of a token guesture to appease the public. In the confusion, Sonny and the Muslims have disappeared. It is quickly determined that Sonny couldn't have been the killer since his gun only fired blanks. With his partner suspended, Grave Digger is left to conduct the investigation on his own which he does in his face slapping, head spitting, rage.
As Digger probes, he finds that there are [good] reasons why Harlem residents would like to see the white man dead. Himes wrote his Harlem Detective series while an expatriate living in France. It is a testimony to Himes' skill as a writer that he is able to imbue his stories with such a rich vibrancy for the Harlem location and it's people without ever having been in Harlem. For me, a reader, Himes put me there, on the streets, in the bars, restaurants, and homes.
These stories are very violent and Coffin Ed and Grave Digger have no compunctions when it comes to using their guns and slapping around anyone foolish enough to hold back information. The detectives perform this violence against their own people but do so because of their own need to bring order and an understanding of how the Harlem blacks are conditioned to respond to authority.
Himes' books are very much about racism. The white man turned bright red. Later, Digger is asked by the police Commissioner why such a large crowd quickly assembled at the scene of the murder. Was it just a case of morbid curiosity?
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Himes, through Digger, explains the reality of things to the white brass: Well, it's like this, Commissioner, Grave Digger said. Every day in Harlem, two and three times a day, the colored people see some colored man being chased by another colored man with a knife or an axe, or by a white man with his fists.
But it's only once in a blue moon they get to see a white man being chased by one of them. A big white man at that. This was an event. A chance to see some white blood spilled for a change, and spilled by a black man, at that. That was greater than Emancipation Day. As they say up in Harlem, that was the greatest.
That's what Ed and I are always up against when we try to make Harlem safe for white people. Not that last sentence. Ed and Digger have to keep Harlem safe for white people.