Sense Of Humor by Damon Runyon, 1934
The magic trick:
Cooking up a funny, dark hardboiled noir thriller
There is joy in the characters here, in their language, even their names. It’s all Depression-era New York City crime clichés. But it’s the real deal, so that there’s probably more than a little truth to the clichés. Runyon was covering these characters as a journalist. He knew this world.
So it’s all fun and local color. That is, until it’s not.
Things get dark. Real dark. One man’s practical joke is another man’s murder. Quite literally.
Runyon blends those tones seamlessly, showing how people laugh to cover for horror. The hardboiled noir stuff is really ace too. This would make for one hell of a Sopranos episode. The cross goes to a double cross to a triple cross. And that’s quite a trick on Runyon’s part.
Well, naturally when I see who it is gives me the hot foot I join in the laughter, and go over and shake hands with Joe, and when I shake hands with him there is more laughter, because it seems Joe has a hunk of Limburger cheese in his duke, and what I shake hands with is this Limburger. Furthermore, it is some of Mindy’s Limburger cheese, and everybody knows Mindy’s Limburger is very squashy, and also very loud…”
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