Never Gonna Let You Go

Have you read the comic book co-written by Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin, Normandy Gold?

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It will come as no surprise that its fantastic. Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin are two of the best crime writers of our Golden Age of women crime writers.

One of the things that can get confusing with crime fiction is the subgenres and the sometimes slight distinctions between them; take hard-boiled vs. noir as an example. I think the confusion comes because a hard-boiled crime novel, when made into a film, can fit into the film noir category, which is a bit broader than the genre definitions crime novels can use and books can fall into; for example, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are hard-boiled detective novels; the films, however, are classic film noir. (Your mileage may vary; I am speaking only for myself and how I classify books.) For me, a detective novel that is dark and brooding and cynical in nature is hard-boiled, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky’s novels, for me, fall into this category, as do Hammett’s detective fiction and Chandler’s. James M. Cain’s novels were noir, as are Megan Abbott’s. Alison Gaylin’s detective novels are more hard-boiled; her stand alone novels are more noir. For me, a noir novel doesn’t have a professional investigator as the main character; those are hard-boiled.

Charles Ardai’s Hard Case Crime line of novels contains both noir and hard-boiled fiction; the team-up of Gaylin and Abbott with the graphic serial novel Normandy Gold is a fine addition to Hard Case, and one of the best comics/graphic novels I’ve come across in a long while. As I read the first issue on my iPad, all I could think was how glorious this is; excellent, crisp dialogue and incredible storytelling, along with some amazing artwork. If there are awards for graphic novels, just start sending them along to the team that produced this now!

Normandy Gold firmly straddles the line between noir and hard-boiled with guns blazing. Set in the 1970’s, Normandy is a small town sheriff in rural Oregon. Her mother was a prostitute, and she ran away when she was a teen to try to find a better life for herself, leaving her younger sister behind. One day she gets a call from her sister, and is still on the line with her as her sister is murdered. Normandy comes to Washington DC to find out what she can about her sister’s death; the cops have written it off as just another dead whore no one cares about and unsolvable. But Normandy also finds out her sister wasn’t just a prostitute; she worked for a very elite, high level escort service, and decides to go undercover to find what happened to her sister.

This typical-sounding set-up comes alive in the hands of two master storytellers, and the art itself is stunningly beautiful. The story moves very quickly, and the 1970’s setting is perfectly done; not a false note in the entire first issue. This is the kind of story that, as a film in the 1970’s, would have earned a star like Jane Fonda or Ellen Burstyn or Ann-Margret an Oscar nomination, if not the statue itself. Vividly realized, you keep turning the pages to see what happens next…and when you get to the end of the issue, you’re sorry it’s done but can’t wait to read the next.

Highly recommended.

 

Maniac

Monday morning in New Orleans, after a crazy kind of weekend that included insane street flooding and torrential rains. My neighborhood doesn’t flood quite as bad as others–we’ve had high water on our street, but it rarely lasts for long–because two blocks from the house is Coliseum Square, which is much lower (as is Camp Street on the far side of it) and serves as a kind of flood basin for the neighborhood (which was WAY fun when we lived on Camp Street; my car flooded once and we got water all the way up to the top step–of six–outside out front door). I didn’t work much on the line edit (read: not at all) because I was too busy reading, first Lyndsay Faye’s brilliant The Gods of Gotham, then Owen Matthew’s epic The Fixes, and then I started reading Eric Ambler’s Journey Into Fear. (I’ve not read Ambler before) We also got caught up on Orphan Black, and continue to muddle along with The Last Tycoon, which is quite visually stunning but more than a little dull. (And just HOW do you make 1930’s Hollywood dull? Nicely done, F. Scott Fitzgerald.)

Game of Thrones was just EPIC last night. Oh my God, was it ever epic. I won’t post spoilers for those who may not have seen it yet, but all I will say is finally. I’ve been waiting for that episode ALL SEASON. Huz-fucking-ZAH.

So, I read Owen Matthews’ The Fixes yesterday. Owen Matthews is the name Owen Laukkanen uses to write young adult fiction (his first was How to Win at High School, which I have but is still in the TBR pile), and as Owen Laukkanen he wrote one of my favorite books of last year, The Watcher in the Wall (I may have read it this year; my memory has truly become a sieve). Owen and I are on a panel at Toronto Bouchercon this year–while the schedule hasn’t been posted yet, I was curious as to why Owen was on a panel called “Reading the Rainbow”; but I haven’t read all of his work as of yet. The panel moderator and I were talking the other day and I brought that up, at which point I was told he does write gay characters, and in fact, one of the main characters in The Fixes is gay. I moved the book to the top of the TBR pile, and tore through it yesterday afternoon: it is a quick read, and moves really fast.

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This is a story about a boy’s first crush, and how it blew up in his face.

And all of its explosive consequences.

(You know what? Forget it.)

Let’s start over.

Let me tell you why E set off that bomb.

Eric, or E, as he comes to be called by his friends over the course of the novel, is the son of a state senator, the grandson of yet another politician, and has been raised to understand that he isn’t just anyone; he is a CONNELLY MAN and he has to live up to the family name–maybe even so far as eventually running for president. Eric has given up a lot to live up to his father’s expectations, and is more than a little resentful. As a sophomore, Eric had dated Paige but soon realized he was more attracted to guys than girls…which as a CONNELLY MAN could prove problematic. His future is laid out for him completely, and he is giving up the summer before he starts college to intern at a legal firm his father used to work for. And then, a chance encounter in the office at his high school with Jordan Grant, the gorgeous son of a wealthy filmmaker, derails his entire summer….and possibly his future as well.

Soon, Eric (E, as Jordan likes to call him) has a full blown crush on Jordan, even though he seems to be involved loosely with Haley. All four of these kids–they live in a Malibu-like, affluent wealthy town called Capilano–have some damage: Paige’s father is going to be tried for embezzling and misleading investment clients (a la Madoff); Haley’s mother is a model who idealizes her eldest daughter, a successful model, and is always putting Haley down and making her feel bad about herself, which led to an eating disorder and a stay in a hospital; E himself is struggled against the life path his father has chosen for him; and Jordan is…well, what exactly is Jordan’s damage?

I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that the group becomes involved in ‘fixing’ things around Capilano; injustices they step up to correct. And as E becomes more deeply involved in the fixes, as his own life path begins to spin out of control and he falls deeper and deeper under Jordan’s spell..the book continues racing along at a frenetic, insane pace that makes it impossible to put down until it’s finished.

It was also lovely to see a novel, published by a mainstream press and written by a non-gay author, that so carefully, conscientiously, and sympathetically explored the struggle and complexity of coming to terms with a sexuality that does not jibe with family expectations, as well as the emotional grappling with how can I not be my true self for the rest of my life?; not to mention the emotional complexity of falling in love for the first time.

The story is intricate as well; this is a fine example of young adult noir, the kind the amazing Jay Bennett used to write.

Highly recommended, and really looking forward to reading How to Win at High School.

 

(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long

Saturday morning. After my morning coffee,  I’m going to run some errands, and then I am going to figure out what time to drive out to Elmwood to see Wonder Woman–shooting for late afternoon/early evening; that way I can get some cleaning and revising done. I’ve not done much revising this week–which is shameful (there is some harsh and ugly truths there about the need for actual contractual deadlines, isn’t there?), and so my goal is to get back on track with all of that for this weekend. I want to get another three or four chapters revised, as well as the second draft of “Quiet Desperation” finished this weekend, so I can move on to revising another short story. I’ve also started a new draft of the eighth Scotty novel, Crescent City Charade, which I am hoping to get finished by the end of the summer (Labor Day is the goal). I absolutely HAVE to get these revisions finished by the end of June, because I want to spend the summer querying agents. I honestly believe this WIP is my best work, and could be an important book.

Whether that proves to be the case or not remains to be seen, of course, but here’s hoping.

The Lost Apartment is a mess, and has been for quite some time. I can’t remember the last time I did the floors, quite frankly, and it’s getting kind of ugly down there, honestly. I mean, our kitchen floor needs to be redone–tiles have come up–which kind of makes it hard to make it look nice anyway, but that’s no excuse for not cleaning, you know? My mother would be so ashamed.

So ashamed.

So, I am going to, as soon as I finish this cup of coffee, start straightening and cleaning up down here. It looks like it’s going to rain all weekend, so I am not going to bother with the windows (which are also long overdue for a cleaning; although I could do the inside. Hmmmm, that could be a plan, actually) and definitely work on these floors. There’s some filing to do–isn’t there always–and some other organizing I need to do, but if I buckle down and stay focused (and make a fucking list) I should be able to get through everything before it’s time to go see Wonder Woman.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie. Wonder Woman was always one of my favorite comic book superheroes (although when I started reading DC Comics, she’d given up her powers somehow and was running a clothing boutique and dealing with social issues and was a modern feminist; in retrospect, it was one of the stupidest reboots in DC’s long history of rebooting their characters); I loved the historic Amazon character, and the rebooted non-powered Wonder Woman/Diana Prince character was more of a detective, solving crimes and trained in martial arts. Around the time the television series starring Lynda Carter started, the DC rebooted her again and made her an Amazon princess with her powers again. And the TV show was amazing. Rewatching it now shows it up for its low-budget special effects and bad writing, but Lynda Carter embodied the part so beautifully that she became iconic–and I’ve been a lifelong fan of Ms. Carter. Paul and I stopped watching Supergirl during its first season, before Lynda Carter joined the cast as the president, so I’m sure at some point I’ll go back and binge the series. (I’ve also always been a fan of Supergirl–who also went through an incredibly stupid reboot in the 1970’s; complete with new costumes and a loss of some of her powers–sometimes she had them, sometimes she didn’t; they came and went because of some kind of Kryptonite poisoned drink she was tricked into imbibing; then was killed off during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then was brought back as something completely different after Superman was killed off in the early 1990’s. It’s really hard to keep track of all these shifts and changes in DC continuity/universes.)

Interestingly enough, now as I reflect on my fandom of both Wonder Woman and Supergirl, I realize how I’ve always been drawn to fictional depictions of strong women–from Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden to the Dana Girls to Cherry Ames to Vicki Barr to Wonder Woman to Supergirl to Lois Lane (who used to have her own comic book, detailing her adventures as an investigative reporter, which I also loved), to real life women who defied the traditional role of women in our society, like Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’ve certainly always enjoyed reading fiction by and about women; from Charlotte Armstrong to Phyllis Whitney to Victoria Holt to Mary Stewart to Judith Krantz and so on and so forth. Do people still read Rona Jaffe? She was another favorite of mine from the 1970’s. Taylor Caldwell, Evelyn Anthony, Jean Plaidy, Helen MacInnes, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson–I’ve always read and enjoyed books written by women. (This is not to say I don’t enjoy books by men; I always have, but at the same time there is a certain style of testosterone driven male novel, complete with angst, that I simply cannot abide, and the crime genre is riddled with them. I recently joked that I wanted to write a noir set in the strip clubs in the Quarter and call it Girls Girls Girls…you get the idea.)

And there are so many wonderful women writers publishing today: Sara Paretsky, Laura Lippman, Sue Grafton, Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Alafair Burke, Alex Marwood, Lisa Unger, Jamie Mason, Wendy Corsi Staub, J. M. Redmann, Kristi Belcamino, Carrie Smith, Sara Henry, Ellen Hart, Donna Andrews, Dana Cameron, Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry), Carolyn Haines, Catriona McPherson, Lori Rader-Day, and Rebecca Chance–just off the top of my head; my TBR pile is filled with books by women, and there are so many wonderful women writers I’ve not gotten to yet, like Lisa Lutz and Shannon Baker and Jennifer MacMahon and Karin Slaughter–the list goes on and on forever and ever, amen. And this is just crime fiction/thrillers…I’ve not even touched on horror or scifi or fantasy or so-called ‘chick-lit.’ (Which reminds me, I really want to read some more Liane Moriarty, and I’ve not read any Jennifer Weiner…sigh.)

There’s just never enough time….and speaking of which, it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines.

Here’s a Saturday hunk for you:

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(They Long to Be) Close to You

Laura Lippman famously said on a panel once that in noir fiction, “dreamers become schemers.” It’s probably the best, and most simple, description of noir that I’ve ever heard; it’s broad enough to include James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce (the book is different from the film) because Mildred does become a schemer, even though there is no crime in the book. That’s the part of noir that most don’t get; there doesn’t really have to be a crime in the story for it to be noir; although most noir has a crime. The first time I ever tried to write noir (which I love) was when I was asked to write a story for New Orleans Noir; that story, “Annunciation Shotgun,” is one of my favorites of my own work, and I was very pleased with my dark, nasty little story. So, you can imagine my horror when one of the other contributors told me, at a reading for the book, how much she loved my story “because it was so funny.” I hadn’t intended it to be funny, of course, but when it became my turn to read, sure enough, the audience laughed in parts. And I learned a valuable lesson: noir can be funny, too.

This is clearly a lesson the Victor Gischler learned at some point in his writing career because his second novel, The Pistol Poets, is noir but at the same time one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

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Moses Duncan was in the barn up to his elbows in the fried engine of his Harley-Davidson when he saw the girl driving too fast down the dirt road to his ranch, her Toyota pickup kicking up dust, the dogs barking. He knew who it was. The girl, one of those college kids. Sexy.

He looked at himself. Wiry arms sticking out of his sleeveless AC/DC T-shirt, greasy jeans. It was freezing in the barn, but he couldn’t work on the bike in a jacket. He hadn’t shaved or bathed in two days. Damn, he hated to look so shitty when the pretty ones came around to make a buy. He pushed back his shaggy dishwater hair, accidentally smearing  grease on one side of his head.

He wiped his hands on a rag, stepped out of the barn just as she parked her truck. Moses squinted at the sky. Clouds rolling in. It was rain soon, sleet maybe if it got cold enough.

As Constant Reader is aware, plot is probably my weakest point when it comes to my own novels. I can do character, dialogue, scene, setting, place, mood–all of that. But when it comes to plot…well, I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around how to intricately construct a plot and weave the strands and characters together. Carl Hiassen is really good at this (and manages to be funny at the same time); Victor Gischler does the same thing. And The Pistol Poets manages to contain the same level of farce as Hiassen, while being truly hardboiled and noir at the same time. There are any number of characters in The Pistol Poets, and many of them are point of view characters, at least briefly; again, very hard to pull off and make work.

The book begins with a college student buying drugs from Moses Duncan; she is having an assignation later on with one of her instructors at Eastern Oklahoma University, a second (maybe even third) rate college in a bumfuck small town, a visiting professor and published poet named Jay Morgan. Jay is the erstwhile hero/anti-hero of the story; having a sort of midlife crisis as he moves around the country at bad colleges as a visiting professor, filling in for tenured professors on sabbatical, drowning in alcohol and an “i-don’t-give-a-shit” attitude. The story also involves Harold Jenks, a two-bit hoodlum in East St. Louis who becomes accidentally involved in the murder of a young college student, heading for the bus station to attend the MFA program at EOU. Harold is sick of the life and decides to take the student’s place, which just happens to be in Jay’s poetry seminar…and the story is off to the races. It’s hard to imagine, given the high amount of violence and high body count, that the book is also funny; it manages to skewer MFA writing programs, poetry, academic writing/literature conferences, department politics, drug dealing, and so, so much more. It’s highly, highly entertaining, and I highly recommend this without any qualms.

And now, back to my edits.

Think About Me

My vacation is over, and while I do regret that–a stay-at-home vacation gives you a taste of how my life could be; just doing errands and chores around the house and of course, writing without interruption, without an eye on the clock knowing I only have so much time to get so much done; the leisure to take my time on projects and not feel rushed, to not feel like I’m not doing the best I can because the clock is ticking and there are other things I have to do…

It’s kind of nice, although it makes me kind of sad to have to go back to the clock-watching and time-scheduling,

I did finish reading Elizabeth Little’s superb Dear Daughter last night.

As soon as they processed my release, Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.

Oh, I thought I was so clever.

But you probably already know that I’m not.

I mean, come on, you didn’t really think I was just going to disappear, did you? That I would skulk off and live in the shadows? That maybe I would find a distant land, a plastic surgeon, a ceramic half mask and a Punjab lasso? Get real.

But I never meant for it to come to this. There’s attention and then there’s attention, and sure, the latter gets you fame and money and free designer shoes, but I’m not Lindsay Lohan. I understand the concept of declining marginal returns. It was the not knowing–that’s what I couldn’t stand. That’s why I’m here.

It’s hard, really, to believe that Dear Daughter is a debut novel; Little writes with the punch and skill of a much more experienced writer. The main character’s voice is exceptional, strong, and even though she can read as vastly unsympathetic, she is always compelling.

A technicality has overturned Jane Jenkins’ murder conviction; when she was seventeen she was tried as an adult for murdering her socialite mother, with whom she had a rather combative relationship. Jane herself was what is called a ‘celebutante’, like Paris Hilton and others before her, famous really for being famous. (Imagine the circus a Paris Hilton murder trial would have been…) Now that she’s free, Jane wants to prove her innocence (she really doesn’t remember if she actually killer her mother or not) so, with the help of a trusted attorney, she takes on a false identity and disappears; even lying to the lawyer about where she is going. The night of her mother’s murder she heard her mother arguing with a man, and the only words she caught were ‘Tessa’ and ‘Adeline’; she has found a remote town in South Dakota named Adeline, and that’s where she is heading.

The twists and turns and surprises come fast in this novel, and once it kicks into high gear there’s no stopping. Jane herself is a strong, full-fledged character; smart yet vulnerable, lonely, yet the loneliness makes her stronger. She tries to sort out the complicated relationship she had with her mother while trying to find out the truth, not only about her mother’s murder but her mother’s past, as well as her own…very compelling reading.

And the writing itself is quite extraordinary, as well.

I highly recommend this! And can’t wait for her next novel.

And now back to the spice mines.

I Don’t Want to Know

Thanksgiving Eve, and all is well in the Lost Apartment. I’m up early for Wacky Russian, and I actually woke up a half an hour before the alarm went off, well rested and not tired in the least. There’s something to this vacation thing, or it’s the sleepytime tea I’ve been drinking before I go to bed every night (I started that this week, and so far it’s been pretty effective).

Of course, now that I’ve said that, tonight it won’t work.

Last night I finished reading Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg.

It was Friday the thirteenth and yesterday’s snowstorm lingered in the streets like a leftover curse. The slush outside was ankle-deep. Across Seventh Avenue a treadmill parade of lightbulb headlines marched endlessly around Times Tower’s terra cotta facade…HAWAII IS VOTED INTO UNION AS FIFTIETH STATE: HOUSE GRANTS FINAL APPROVAL 232 TO 89; EISENHOWER’S SIGNATURE OF BILL ASSURED…Hawaii, sweet land of pineapples and Haleloki; ukuleles strumming, sunshine and surf, grass skirts swaying in the tropical breeze.

I spun my chair around and stared out at Times Square. The Camels spectacular on the Claridge puffed fat steam smoke rings out over the snarling traffic. The dapper gentleman on the sign, mouth frozen in a round O of perpetual surprise, was Broadway’s harbinger of spring. Earlier in the week, teams of scaffold-hung painters transformed the smoker’s dark winter homburg and chesterfield overcoat into seersucker and panama straw; not as poetic as Capistrano swallows, but it got the message across. My building was built before the turn of the centuryl a four-story brick pile held together with soot and pigeon dung. An Easter bonnet of billboards flourished on the roof, advertising flights to Miami and various brands of beer. There was a cigar store on the corner, a Polerino parlor, two hot dog stands, and the Rialto Theatre, mid-block. The entrance was tucked between a peep-show bookstore and a novelty place, show windows stacked with whoopee cushions and plaster dog turds.

The book was originally published in 1978 and was an Edgar Award finalist for Best First Novel; it didn’t win, losing to Killed in the Ratings by William L. DeAndrea. It was filmed in the 1980’s as the infamous Angel Heart, starring Mickey Rourke, Charlotte Rampling, Lisa Bonet, and Robert DeNiro. I enjoyed the film very much when I saw it, not knowing it was based on a book; it was another one of those films that drew me to New Orleans and Louisiana. Recently (in the last several months) I came across a listing of great crime novels or the ten noir novels everyone should read or something like that; so I thought, oh, I have to read that and there you go.

The plot of the novel itself was adapted almost perfectly for the film; a private eye named Harry Angel is hired by a strange man named Louis Cyphre to find Johnny Favorite, a singer who was apparently severely injured and left with amnesia during World War II; he owes a debt to Mr. Cyphre and he suspects that Favorite may not be in the hospital he is supposed to be. Angel starts looking for Favorite and discovers that Cyphre is right; Favorite is no longer at the hospital, and soon is drawn into a creepy world of black magic, voodoo, and ritual murder. The primary difference between the novel and the film is that the novel takes place entirely in New York; in the book Favorite’s trail leads Angel to New Orleans.

I guess the filmmakers felt voodoo, black magic, and ritual murders fit better in New Orleans that New York. Whatever; I’m glad they did because again, the film was another step in my journey to New Orleans.

The book is very well done, the pacing is great and as I have said in previous entries, that cynical, hard-boiled noir voice is captured perfectly. I myself have never been able to quite get that style down absolutely right; I do intend to keep trying as I love both hard-boiled and noir styles. Having seen the movie I knew the big surprise twist; I can imagine how surprising and shocking it was back in 1978, or if you haven’t seen the film; the twist was one of the reasons I loved the movie. Even knowing it, I still enjoyed the book tremendously because of the writing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Kung Fu Fighting

Ugh. Tonight is the LSU-Alabama game, which means I will be incredibly tense all day. Sometimes I do wonder why I watch college football, as it really doesn’t seem like I enjoy it all that much…or maybe I enjoy the tension? Anyway, obviously, I am all in for the Tigers tonight, and win or lose, I will still be a Tiger fan. GEAUX TIGERS!

I also finished reading Mary Leader’s Triad last night, and started rereading Barbara Michaels’ Witch; I will probably discuss the Leader novel tomorrow.

We also watched, around our other shows this week, the latest James Franco film, King Cobra.

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The film is based on a true crime title (which has been in my TBR pile forever) called Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway, about the true life murder of gay porn producer/director Bryan Kocis. I remember when it all happened; I also remember thinking this would make a great noir novel.

I have any number of ideas for noir novels set in the world of gay porn.

The crux of the case had to do with Kocis’ exclusive contract with a young porn star who performed under the name Brent Corrigan; the killers–Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes–were porn producers/stars who were deeply in debt and saw Corrigan’s popularity as a way to get out of the debt, by having him star in one of their films. Kocis was the fly in the ointment with his exclusive contract and his trademarking of the name “Brent Corrigan”; so they killed him. Grisly and dark; it has all the makings of a great noir, and I may still write it, you never know–as I said, I have any number of ideas for noir novels set in the world of gay porn.

It is an industry that sadly lends itself to noir.

The film, starring James Franco, Christian Slater, Garrett Clayton, and Keegan Allen in the leads, with Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald in supporting roles…is well done but not well written, if that makes any sense. The way it is filmed and edited and written tells the story from the moment young Sean Lockhart meets Bryan Kocis, ostensibly to intern in a film production company, only to find himself being turned into Brent Corrigan, gay porn star. The way the role is written you can’t really tell if Sean went to meet with Kocis knowing what he was doing; did he want to do porn for the money, or was he really interested in film making? He also kind of comes across as not particularly smart.

Clayton, however, is certainly pretty enough to be a twink porn star, if you’re into twink porn stars.

Garrett Clayton, late of the Disney Channel:

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The actual Brent Corrigan:

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The movie was, you know, just okay. I didn’t really come away from it feeling anything, or with any further insight to what happened or why; it was just kind of matter of fact. The strongest performance in the film, I felt, was from Keegan Allen, whom I used to watch on Pretty Little Liars; he managed to make killer (oops, spoiler, sorry!) Harlow Cuadra sympathetic; kind of a child/man who was both intellectually and emotionally stunted, whereas Franco’s portrayal of Kerekes left me wondering ‘was it the drugs, or was he actually a sociopath?” But Keegan Allen was terrific.

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The movie was entertaining enough; it held my interest, but as I said, it was matter-of-fact to the point it seemed almost like a documentary; this happened and then this happened and then this happened and then they were arrested.

Corrigan is not pleased with the movie, I suppose I should add, and plans to write his own book about what happened.

And that, really, is the key to all of this, and why I think the movie doesn’t succeed ultimately. I don’t know who Brent Corrigan is, or any of these people, any more than I did before I watched the movie.

One thing they did get right–almost so right it made me laugh–was how bad the acting in porn films are. They would show the start of the scenes, when the actors have to “act”–and they really got the amateurish line-readings down pat.

I do want to read the book now, though, because the story is, in and of itself, fascinating to me.

And now back to the spice mines.

On the Dark Side

Someone recently pointed out to me that on my website, I described my Chanse MacLeod series as more nourish, but a hilarious typo—which either no one noticed previously or had but were too polite to mention to me— made the sentence read as the Chanse series is more nourish. Yes, it made me laugh for a few moments before I went in and corrected it, but it also made me start thinking about the sentence itself. Is the Chanse series, in fact, more noir than the Scotty series?

 

The Chanse series is darker than the Scotty series, and yes, that was a deliberate choice, but calling the Chanse series noir is probably incorrect; what I should have said was the Chanse series was more hardboiled. That would be factually correct. So, what precisely is the difference between hardboiled and noir?

 

Hardboiled crime fiction is a bit easier to define than noir, and it is possible for a novel or story to be both. Wikipedia says this:

 

Hardboiled (or hard-boiled) fiction is a literary genre that shares some of its characters and settings with crime fiction (especiallydetective stories). Derived from the romantic tradition which emphasized the emotions of apprehensionawehorror and terror, hardboiled fiction deviates from that tradition in the detective’s cynical attitude towards those emotions. The attitude is conveyed through the detective’s inner monologue describing to the audience what he is doing and feeling.

The genre’s typical protagonist is a detective who witnesses daily the violence of organized crime that flourished during Prohibition(1920–1933) and its aftermath, while dealing with a legal system that had become as corrupt as the organized crime itself.[1]Rendered cynical by this cycle of violence, the detectives of hardboiled fiction are classic antiheroes. Notable hardboiled detectives include Philip MarloweMike HammerSam SpadeLew Archer, and The Continental Op.

 

Interesting that Wikipedia doesn’t define it as a subgenre of crime fiction, but defines it as its own genre, separate but sharing characteristics with crime fiction. It also claims that the notion of hardboiled fiction is limited to a specific time period. I don’t think that’s true; I would go so far as to say that there are many authors who are publishing hardboiled crime fiction today. It’s only my opinion, but I do think one could consider Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Ace Atkins, Reed Farrel Coleman, and many others as practitioners of the form.

 

Noir, on the other hand, is a more slippery kind of fish to define. Film noir and literary noir, for example, are completely different things; the classic movie is considered film noir, but the novel itself, to me, is hardboiled; Spade is a cynic but he is not a bad guy. When I was asked to write a story for New Orleans Noir, the assignment, as defined by the editor, was to come up with a description for noir and write a story that fit that definition. My definition was the endless nightmare; for me, noir was about an everyday Joe who makes a bad decision—something amoral or immoral, maybe against the law—and that bad decision sets he/she on a path where things get worse, and the only choices presented from that point on sink the character deeper and deeper into the quagmire of an amoral abyss. To that end, I wrote the story “Annunciation Shotgun”.

I never really felt, though, that my definition was adequate; it scratched the surface, but it didn’t go deep enough to truly define noir. Of course, Laura Lippman defined noir on a panel I was on perfectly: dreamers become schemers. As always, the woman who is often the smartest person in the room nailed it, and I have since stolen that as my definition.

I love noir, both the film and literary versions of it. James M. Cain is one of my favorite writers, and I have always wanted to write a noir novel. I have a couple of ideas, and as always, it’s simply a matter of being able to find the time to sit down and actually write one. I want to read more noir writers; modern day genius Megan Abbott is one of our best writers and her novels are extraordinary. The closest I’ve come to a noir with my novels are Timothy and Dark Tide;

I have a couple of other ideas, as I said, that I may explore. I know how both start, but there’s that slight issue of the plot yet to work out. Once I have a better grasp of the plots, I’ll start writing them.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.