Saturday, October 22, 2011

Noel Loomis, Paladin, and San Francisco

Certain writers are consistent (at least in what I've read by them) in touching, at some point in a story, on the noble work of settling the land and expanding the nation from shore to shore. Some writers in whose works I've noticed this theme are Tom Blackburn, Norman Fox, and Thomas Thompson.

I started reading a book by Noel Loomis today -- I haven't read anything by Loomis before, so I don't know if this is a consistent note in his work or just apparent within this book, which is a TV show tie-in novel. It's a paperback I picked up at PulpFest a few months ago, Dell R156: Have Gun Will Travel.

Loomis has a great way with description.

The book's second paragraph runs like this, talking about Paladin's home, San Francisco:

In this wild, wicked city on the bay, the mornings were cool as the fog blanketed the hills and human sounds were quiet and subdued; the afternoons were sunny, and the city came awake, and the sound of human voices arose as the fog rolled back down the precipitous streets; then the city was taken over by the nights that never seemed to end. For in the mud of the hilly streets, in the yellow gaslight of the saloons, in the plush and elegant parlors of the love palaces, there was spawned a violence that lives yet today in the littered and windswept streets, in the sharp and suspicious glances toward a stranger, in the dark feelings that flow over a man when he passes a narrow alley, in the strident clang of the cable cars as they hurtle down Powell Street to the turn-around.

There's a bit of Raymond Chandler there, a foreshadowing of dark violence with hints of noir, and as Loomis phrases that last, long sentence, the reader feels like the San Francisco of the past and that of the present are sharing a common space and time, that the old and new are really the same and unchanged. It's a neat bit of writing.