Anyone who’s been following Classically Educated is well aware that we have a soft spot for noir around here. We like it in film, we like it in writing. We would like it in plays and tweets if it were available widely in those formats.
We also enjoy the fantasy genre. Again, film and literature are our preferred genres, but who can really resist playing Zelda every now and then?
So when writers decide to mash these two genres together, we sit up and pay attention, with the result that we’ve decided to share some of our experiences with two very different takes on the subject.
Exhibit A is a recent anthology entitled Darker Than Noir, edited by Faith Kauwe. It’s a collection of short stories which does exactly what the title says: blend the noir detective sensibility with the darker end of the fantasy spectrum. A few of the tales could rightly be called supernatural horror, but all have fantastic elements.
In this book, our fearless–or, in other tales, hapless– detectives investigate everything from actors who want to stay young forever to misdeeds at a furry convention. There’s something here for every taste, as long as you like it dark and with hardboiled sensitivities.
As a primer to get one’s feet wet, it’s nearly ideal.
But that’s an appetizer – for the main course we’d like to discuss the man who, in our view, takes hardboiled fantasy to its most exalted heights: Glen Cook. Yes, he’s better known for his military fantasy series, The Black Company, but we’d argue that he will be remembered for being the man who most perfectly blended put a human private eye in a world of elves, ogres and pixies.
Cook’s P.I. Garrett series has to be one of the most entertaining fantasy series out there, bar none. It tells the tale of a former marine who makes his living by investigating crimes. As expected in a fantasy world, the bad guys are usually both magical and very, very twisted.
What makes these compelling, though, is the main character’s voice. Honoring the noir canon, they are told in the first person, in the world-weary, street-savvy voice we’ve come to love from the genre. Garrett shows his human side early and often, and in so doing makes you laugh and suffer with him. It really is a change from implacable heroes (even the flawed ones are often implacable in fantasy) and perfect elves we’ve come to expect.
It’s not our intention to do a blow-by-blow of each book here (read them, you’ll thank us), but just to point readers who share our interest in a couple of interesting directions. Both of these very different propositions proved entertaining–so think of our pointing you their way as a public service!