Monday, February 10, 2014

Maxim Jakubowski. Pulp Action (2001)

     Maxim Jakubowski. Pulp Action (2001) A second anthology, according to the prefatory note, of typical noir pulp fiction from the 1920s to the present. The earlier tales are severely moral, even when the hero is a crook, for then he is a Robin Hood type, punishing guilt that the law can’t touch. They also tend to have more or less painful twists and excessively poetic justice. They remind us of a time when many people who would later turn to TV, and in our day to video games, read cheap fiction to pass the time.
     Some of the later stories focus more on the psychology of evil. A couple of stories edge into Raymond Carver territory, telling stories of ordinary people crossing some self-imposed boundary, and painfully coming to terms with their transgressions. In short, the collection reminds us that the short story of whatever type shows us the moral dilemmas of the day in crystalline detail. A few exemplify gore-porn, a genre I don’t like, but most could be transferred to prime-time TV or film with little or no change in tone or ethical perspective. As indeed many such stories were, when movies and then TV were the staple entertainment for most of us.
     Cliches and stereotypes (dumb cops, smart amateurs, simple-minded crooks, lascivious molls, etc) abound, but that’s part of the charm. The 70-odd year span represents two to three generations, and the contrast between the early and most recent stories shows us how America has changed. There is a kind of naive innocence about the early tales, an assumption of firm ethical standards that corrupt politicians and bent cops can’t transgress with impunity. But noir is also a harbinger of the future: the corrupt pols and bent cops almost win, and the weary detectives that bring them down don’t find much joy in the exercise.
     Overall, the collection tends to horror rather than crime. The older stories triggered nostalgia, I used to read such stuff back in the 50s and 60s. The more recent stories are darker, and a couple are written merely to give the reader the frisson of encountering extreme evil without the attendant danger. 0 to **½ (2010)

No comments: