Noir: French for black; genre of fiction or film characterized by tough characters, cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.
Noir has always been a favorite of mine for its atmosphere, images, voice, and intent. No happy endings. I’m addicted to fiction that explores the dark side of human nature, not only on an individual level, but also on a societal and political level. Noir tends to resurge during dark times—post WWII, McCarthy era, Vietnam, and the present for example.
Visually, noir is usually saturated in a dark and stormy atmosphere, perhaps even claustrophobic or sweltering. It started out urban, but has spread to the rural and desolate areas of American. The story presents a mystery with twists and turns that should cause the reader to question what is right and what is wrong.
As the famous James Ellroy stated in his introduction to The Best American Noir of the Century: “The thrill of noir is the rush of moral forfeit and the abandonment to titillation. The social importance of noir is its grounding in the big themes of race, class, gender, and systemic corruption. The overarching joy and lasting appeal of noir is that it makes doom fun.”
To learn more about noir, check out a conversation I had with Wendy Kendall and Julie Cooper on the “Kendall and Cooper Talk Mysteries with Valerie J. Brooks” podcast.
One of the best examples of Noir: Chinatown
Valerie’s favorite noir film: Body Heat