So a couple good things did come out of me reading that boggling book on film noir.
The first, obviously, is entertainment factor. The second is that, through a complex chain of Wikipedia-tracing, I discovered hard-boiled writer Elisabeth Sanxay Holding -- the woman that Raymond Chandler considered the top suspense writer of the day, himself included, so of course now she's been almost totally forgotten. Women noir authors what women noir authors?
But her book The Blank Wall
has been recently reprinted! It's about a sweet, ineffectual housewife, her husband off fighting in WWII, who discovers that her sweet, elderly father has accidentally murdered her daughter's no-good boyfriend by shoving him off a pier into a sharp stick. The sweet, elderly father has no idea that he's killed the guy, and the daughter has no idea the guy is dead.
"Oh dear," says our heroine, "Father and Bee would be so
upset if they ever found out about this, and what would the neighbors say? I suppose I had better take out the motorboat and hide the body on a nearby island! This is really the only practical solution."
(Our heroine's teenaged son: MOOOOOM why are you riding around by yourself in motorboats early in the morning it's SO EMBARRASSING no one ELSE's mom does that!)
Then the no-good boyfriend's accomplices turn up with blackmail material, and the police turn up politely wanting to know why she was out with a motorboat near the island where the body was eventually discovered, and one of the accomplices gets a MAD crush on Our Heroine and keeps trying to bashfully send them black-market goods while she is trying to get him to stop blackmailing them ...
(Our heroine's teenaged daughter: MOOOOM why are you going out for drives with that SHADY CHARACTER he is a NO-GOOD this is SO EMBARRASSING no one ELSE's mom does that!)
And then of course the blackmailer with a crush starts committing crime FOR our heroine, and she's just like "GREAT, NOW I ALSO
HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS BLACKMAILER."
So like in all noirs, one wrong deed sends everything spiraling, and our heroine is running around trying to put out twelve fires while gradually realizing just how constrained her life is -- and while in most noirs it's the police or the bad guys or the insurance agents who are the limiting factors, what's most fascinating about the structure of this particular noir is that the greatest checks on the protagonist's freedom come straight from her family. She has all these things she needs to figure out how to do in secret and she can't do ANY of them without her kids bringing it up and complaining or the neighbors potentially judging her, because she's a Wife and Mother from a Good Family and her life has no capability built into it for privacy, or deviation from the norm, or change. Her daughter complains about how limited her mother's life is, and how she never wants a life like it -- but as soon as her mother's life shows signs of expanding, that's absolutely a thing that can't be tolerated.
The only actual ally she has is her black housekeeper, and that relationship is fascinating too, because, like, while the book is not wildly progressive or anything, it is definitely aware of the unequal power dynamic, and makes consistent, quiet points about it. Sibyl the housekeeper has a life and a backstory too, and our heroine knows nothing about it, although Sibyl is required to know everything about her.
("But women in noir are only boring wives or femmes fatales!" What confuses me is that Foster Hirsch then spends A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME DESCRIBING THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE BASED ON THIS BOOK.)