Todays post will be the first in an ongoing series of excellent noir crime fiction quotes. These quotes will be hand picked each week depending on their overall adherence to the noir definition that has been established, and posted on Friday. My hope is that these quotes will inspire many of you to pick up the comics/novels/films that they come from, that you may appreciate their relevance to the genre. As an added bonus, for those of you who may not be literate (or those who just like to be read to), I will be recording myself reading these quotes and post them here for your listening pleasure.
This first quote comes from the 1934 noir crime fiction titled: The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James Cain. The novel was banned initially due to its violent and sexual nature (more on that when I review the entire book next week), and has long been heralded as one of the very best of the hard-boiled noir genre. Here is a review that it received February 18th 1934 in the New York Times Book Review:
“His story is a third as long as most novels, and its success is due entirely to one quality: Cain can get down to primary impulses of greed and sex in fewer words than any writer we know of. He has exorcised all the inhibitions; there is a minimum of reason, of complexity, of what we commonly call civilization, between an impulse and its gratification.” – Harold Strauss
Now, does it sound like Mr. Strauss just verbally slapped James Cain to anyone else? He basically called him an uncivilized hedonistic author whose book is too short! It’s the 1934 equivalent of a SHARK SANDWICH review (comment if you catch the reference). I love it. Okay here is the quote I chose for this week, it is the very first paragraph of the novel, and it sets the noir tone in a way that is surprising. (this link will take you to my audio recording):
They threw me off the hay truck about noon. I had swung on the night before, down at the border, and as soon as I got up there under the canvas, I went to sleep. I needed plenty of that, after three weeks in Tia Juana, and I was still getting it when they pulled off to one side to let the engine cool. Then they saw a foot sticking out and threw me off. I tried some comical stuff, but all I got was a dead pan, so that gag was out. They gave me a cigarette, though, and I hiked down the road to find something to eat.