Sunday, April 06, 2008

NoirCon Day Four

Day Four of the festival was very much a wrap-up, a little sigh. Few turned up but those who did were rewarded for braving the drizzle with some great presentations. Jay Gertzman started things off with his appreciation of Charles Willeford, wrapped up in an Estes Kefauver bow. He told a story of Congressional prosecution of Pulps while using Willeford's twisted prose as a perfect example of what had gotten "right thinking people" in an uproar.

I was reminded, as Gertzman described the practice of busting sellers of prurient material, of the '80s crackdown on music and the Dead Kennedy's Frankenchrist scandal. Tipper Gore and the PMRC definitely took tactics from the Kefauver playbook.

This was followed by a discussion of Carroll John Daly by Brooks Hefner who read a paper he had prepared about the elusive Black Mask scribe. Of all the pre-written presentations, Hefner delivered his with the most panache, displaying a knack for engaging the audience. I'd never heard of Daly before, which is surprising as it sounds right up the alley of some finer zinesters, such as John Marr from "Murder Can Be Fun."

The thought that plagued me more than once during NoirCon was just how poorly read I am. I've not read Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Thompson, Woolrich, or any number of other kings of pulp. When I get into an author, I usually get into them lock, stock, and barrel, making it difficult to even quit a writer who's lost his way. Writers like Willeford, Goodis, Fearing, Brautigan, Palahniuk, Ellroy, Bester, etc -- I tend not to own just one of their books but all of them, diving deep and reading as much of them as I can rather than being cursory. It's the rare author like Philip K. Dick or John D. MacDonald with whom I can pace myself. I don't want to read all of their stuff right now, choosing rather to savor it. That said, I fear tackling the aforementioned hardboiled scribes for fear of investing money, time, and sleepless nights in pursuit of every word. These are the times that I want a "guide" to lead me through the minefield of a bibliography to guide me surefootedly.

The long hours, drinking, and pandemic took their toll on a lot of people's health this weekend. Unfortunately it cost NoirCon the intriguing "Limp Dick Panel" -- a discussion of masculinity amongst Noir protagonists. I would have been keen to hear this, especially had Megan Abbott been able to chime in with some of the observations she made in her The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (which I'm hoping to find used someday for a price less prohibitive than it's current going rate of $60-$300).

Instead, the festival wrapped up with some bullshitting (in a good way) from Ken Bruen, Reed Coleman, Bob Truluck, and Scott Phillips. I need to check out some stuff from Phillips and Christa Faust but quick to see if their works are as delightful as their personalities.

I was saddened to have to say farewell to everyone and make my way to the airport to stand pay for overpriced Wifi access after being abused by the Department of Homeland Security.


Rich Osmond said...

Check out Christa Faust's new book Money Shot, put out by Hard Case Crime. Really great.

Ed said...

Mike, It was great having you there again this year.

I'm already looking forward to next year.

Peter said...

Mike, I'd recommend the Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, which Hefner mentioned in his presentation. Read the Norbert Davis stories, especially "You’ll Die Laughing." Frederick Nebel's stuff was pretty good, and Erle Stanley Gardner seems to have been as good a storyteller as any of them, though the last few pages of his pieces are big information dumps.

Paul Cain has a story in there, too. Find a copy of his novel Fast One, if you can. It was his only novel, and I like to say that if he had written more, the debate over Chandler and Hammett would be over which of them was number two behind Paul Cain. Another guy you might like, from that period and a bit later, is Jonathan Latimer.

I agree 100 percent with what you wrote about Scott Phillips and Christa Faust. I bought Money Shot and The Ice Harvest today. Christa's blog is worth checking out, too. She wrote a sharp and funny account of NoirCon's first day.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

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