Many Named Noir

A few days after book club I finished the last couple chapters. Overall I liked the book. The last time we did fiction as a book club we read Red Harvest and there are a lot of similarities.

The language, for example, is heavily jargon both from eras and industries. A reader needs to stay flexible about understanding words within context over understanding Webster’s definition. Another commonality is the use of description. When Hammett introduces Dinah there isn’t much description, two paragraphs, but it speaks volumes on both her physique and character:

Her coarse hair-brown- needed trimming and was parted crookedly. One side of her upper lip had been rouged higher than the other. Her dress was a particularly unbecoming wine color, and it gaped her and there down one side, where she had negelcted to snap the fastners or they had popped open. There was a run down the front of her left stocking.

That my friends, that is our leading lady. What else could you want to know?

When we meet George Smiley, leCarre’s main character, we get a bit more length in the intro but it’s a sideways approach of the man as well.

Mr. George Smily was not natually equipped for hurrying in the rain, least of all at dead of night… Small, podgy, and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth. He legs were short, his gait anything but agile, his dress costly, ill-fitting, and extremely wet.

I appreciate the awkwardness of our characters. I also like both authors attention to details, in particular of inanimate objects. They breathe life into characters and the story. Umbrellas, weapons, overcoats, I’m a fan.

There’s shared emphasis on authority figures. “The Old Man” in Red Harvest and “Control” in Ticker, Tailor. Without ever being on the spot they put pressure on the story to resolve at a rapid rate. Both tales are complex, face paced, and difficult to keep up with.

In Ticker, Tailor, Solider, Spy this is further exacerbated by the multitude of names each character goes under. First names, Last names, Cover names, Nicknames, switched Cover names, additional Cover names. It’s like a Russian novel. Which, I guess since the Russians play such a large part in the story, should be okay. But I get a little pouty sometimes.

I liked it. I’m not rushing out to read the next two in the trilogy (I’m displeased to find it was a trilogy, although somewhat abated to know they can be treated as standalone). I would have like to having finished (and for everyone else to have finished) before our book club but we live such crazy lives outside of the pages that it isn’t always an option. I don’t feel like those of us who didn’t finish on time inhibited hosting a fairly good discussion of the book.

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