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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (urth) There Is No Hope Road
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2001 09:40:31 

Tony Ellis (no, really!) wrote:

> There you have it: solving the mystery in detective fiction brings order,
> solving it in film noir brings the discovery that there -is- no order.

Well, yes, but before film noir was Dashiell Hammett, (whose THE MALTESE
FALCON is, in essence, the ur-text of film noir: but it was a novel before
it was a film). In Hammett's world, and especially that of his unnamed
hero, the Continental Op, we have precisely the world of the Norse sagas
-- there is ultimately no order, no justice, but honor demands that we
act as if there were and, bring them to pass where we can.

> Broadly speaking I would agree with what I take to be the general
> consensus: that this is precisely the sort of mystery Gene Wolfe
> does not write. But at least one important exception springs
> immediately to mind: The Fifth Head of Cerberus. In both the first
> and the final novellas, the 'detective' far from solving a mystery
> becomes ensnared in one. The universe remains corrupt and unsolved.

But then, 5HC is almost exactly a portrait of an fallen but unsaved
world; it is precisely in such a world that the hardboiled detective
story and the feelm nwah take place. (And there is no hope, as near
as I can tell, for the redemption of Number Five Wolf(e)* and/or 
"Dr Mars(c)h," leaving 5HC one of the most unbearably depressing books 
I have ever read.)

* (Any relation to Number Ten Ox?)

> In fact it's just hit me: the seedy underworlds of St Anne and St
> Croix are pure film noir, complete with criminal kingpin, bent
> cops, and femmes fatales. Does anyone else think "Mean Streets:
> The Fifth Head of Cerberus Considered as Film Noir" sounds like 
> a good title for a Wolfe essay?

How about "The Detective of Nightmares?" <g> -- yes, it's a workable


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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