Daniel Woodrell: Black Hearts in the Back Woods Meet Cynicism in Small Towns

Daniel Woodrell
Daniel Woodrell
Daniel Woodrell is arguably as famous for his invention of the term “country noir” to describe his own writing as for his novel (turned movie) Winter’s Bone. Of course, he is not satisfied with the term, saying, “To me, noir means a story that ends tragically, and not all my stories do. But being thought of as a genre writer has been something of a bugaboo from the start.”

How ironic, then, that Woodrell is the one who will write the introduction to the new edition of Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280. Where Woodrell sees heroes within the grim brutality of life in the poverty-stricken, drug-riddled Ozarks, Thompson was far more cynical about the creeping self-interest of all his characters. (In his fabulous two-part article on Thompson, Richard Z. Santos talks about how Big Jim’s grim experiences in Hollywood may have affected his view of life.)

But Woodrell is also, perhaps, one of the few who could take on such a Herculean task. For both men, life through the lens of fiction is always honest, if rarely pretty. Of Pop. 1280, he says, “Texas humor and Southern humor are pretty similar. All the jokes in here I can hear my grandfather telling. Both a little bit funny and a little bit insulting.”

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