I recently wrote to a friend and said, “Hey, next time you’re putting an anthology together, let me know. I’d like to contribute.”
He contacted me the next day. “Thanks for the idea! It’s all set. I’ve lined up all the writers and it’ll be Texas noir crime/mystery stories!”
What? That was fast. Noir? Images of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart in trench coats came to mind. Now there’s nothing wrong with Cagney or Bogart. They were excellent actors who were in some great films. I’ve read some Raymond Chandler and he was very talented. He had a gift for unique metaphors that were brief and got right to the heart of the matter. I’ve never read Mickey Spillane but heard he was really good too. Lots of good writers of the genre out there.
But, I’m not a fan of that type of setting. (Yes, I know. I heard your collective gasp. Please don’t throw tomatoes. Put down those pitchforks.) While there are some great stories out there, I’m not keen on men calling women “dames” and saying they have great “gams”. Not thrilled about guys punching other guys just to make a point that they’re tough. If I wanted to watch that, I’d have continued teaching high school.
I understand about noir and hard-boiled crime fiction, why it came about in America when it did. I have no problem with gritty books and movies, nor with the era. I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock, for example.
So now I’m thinking, great, what am I going to write? How am I, a kid from the ‘70s and ‘80’s, going to write about detectives swilling whiskey?
Put down my latte or I’ll give it to you right in the kisser!
I don’t think so.
I first started thinking about recent stories that were gritty. Surely there are modern (neo-noir?) stories. How gritty does it need to be? Aren’t crime/mysteries by definition dark? The only exception I can think of are cozies, but even sometimes they can be dark.
So I decided to do what I usually do several times a day. I Googled it. Apparently, according to Wikepedia, people can’t decide on the definition either. Then I fell back on my other source of information, my friends on Facebook. Since I have so many friends who are writers, this is a font of information. I received many good answers. A few of the recommendations were shows like the Longmire series and True Detective. Some of the books mentioned were The Bitch (yes, that’s the name), The Package by Cleve Sylcox, anything by Walter Moseley or Kelli Stanley, the Harry Dresden series, and an anthology called Lone Star Noir.
Okay, I think I’m getting there, closer to something that I could write. Dark stories, maybe like the Coen Brothers? I thought of Fargo, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, movies I really liked. Those had elements of crime and mystery. An idea popped into my head, something that I could really write. I’m sure some of the other writers for the anthology are wondering if a little housewife could possibly create something dark enough to fit in with their stories.
I think I’m up to the challenge.
So how about you? Do you have a favorite story or movie that you consider to be noir?
7 thoughts on “Neo-Noir?”
No tomatoes or pitchforks here. I can’t write about whiskey swilling either. I look forward to reading your neo-noir (great term!) story. That’s a side of your writing I haven’t seen.
I LOVE writing noir. It’s a wonderful outlet, IMHO. Noir is alive and well, as you found out. Dark comedy is noir and I love to read that. Valerie, I would say that your story in our Murder on
Wheels anthology is quite dark! You certainly have those deep recesses and have proven you can tap them.
Thanks. Sometimes when I’m writing dark stuff it slides over into horror. I’ve got some of those on the back burner.
Good post, Valerie. You have a gift for writing historical mysteries, sometimes with a big splash of the supernatural. Dames and blondes and whiskey drinkers are a dime a dozen. They don’t hold a candle to a determined cabin boy.
Thanks, Gale. I thought of you while writing it because you do such a good job of mixing humor with noir. I like your noir! 😊
As an example, here’s an excerpt from a recent press release:
“Many people think of Hollywood when they hear the term “film noir.” Arizona-based fiction author, Michael Allan Scott, reinvigorates the term creating a new twist on the old cinema style for his mystery books, dubbing it “Noir Nouveau.”
“Film noir is a phase of mainly American films of the 1940′s and 1950′s. Film noir storytelling explores the darker aspects of innovation, usually set in criminal scenes or exploring the consequences of a criminal act (1). They generally contain themes about the individual and human condition, which can be changed into chaos through actions or chance.”
Your style is your style. How you align it with what has gone before is your publicist’s job. Got for it! 🙂
BTW – great blog post.
Thanks for the input. I like that you make a point about the human condition. I hadn’t really thought about that, but that’s spot on. There needs to be a struggle within the main character or else it’s all one dimensiional.