How do American crime writers take up the theme? In the Father Knows Best/My Three Sons/Leave It to Beaver era of American popular culture, noir writers said nope!, there are scarier things in life than crotchety but lovable old Uncle Charlie.
I'm reading Jim Thompson's The Grifters (1963) now, and the last American noir novel I read from about the same era was David Goodis' 1954 Black Friday (which means I should be putting up this post tomorrow instead of today, American Thanksgiving). Mid-century American noir is not my main area of reading, so I don't know how typical each book is of its author's work or of its period. But each thrusts its lone-wolf protagonist into an odd, criminal echo of a traditional family (more like a clan in the Goodis and Mother Knows Best in the Thompson), and that has to mean something.
It would be easy to read such books as protests against or twisted echoes of the cheerful picture of suburban family life presented elsewhere in popular culture of the time, but they're more than that. The Goodis especially betrays a longing for family.
So, what did family mean in post-war American noir writing, and why?
© Peter Rozovsky 2011