Neo-Noir?

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.darkedinburgh_darklight

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.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?

Why Read When You Know the End?

Whether you’re reading Mystery, Romance, Thriller, or Adventure, the ending is almost always predictable. We hope the bad guy will be caught, the couple that’s at odds with each other will come together, the deadly virus won’t kill everyone on Earth, and the hero will complete his quest.

So why do we read these books? I think it’s because of three things.

  1. We love a good story. I think the human brain is wired for stories. For millennia that’s how we’ve passed down our history, folklore, and myths.

    photo by Irish_Eyes

    I believe it’s almost like a form of magic or time travel. Our minds are transported to another place. We are immersed in the story and feel for the characters. And if the writing is really good, you get a sense that you know the characters personally. I mean really, how cool is that?

 

 

 

  1. We like the ritual. It can be comforting to know how the story will end. Everyone loves a hero and likes to root for the underdog. (Of course some heroes are anti-heroes. Not very likeable but they get the job done.)

    Photo by krosseel

    We like coming of age stories and romance because good prevails and we get to believe in true love. It’s also comforting to know that the bad guy will be caught. It’s something to hold onto in an uncertain world.

 

 

 

 

3. We like the journey and the tingly excitement of uncertainty. We’re in it for the ride. We like to see how the clues will unfold, how the problems will be solved. We’re often surprised with twists and turns, just like on a roller coaster. “Holy moly! Now what’s going to happen?” And, of course, what often keeps us on the edge of our seats is knowing that possibly not all of the characters we’ve come to love will make it to the end. That little bit of uncertainty keeps me turning pages!

 

So, as with most things in life, it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important. Hopefully we’ve learned a little something along the way, (maybe a new survival skill!), become reacquainted with an archetype, and been along for a fun ride, twists and turns and all. It’s a magic that keeps us coming back for more.

Posted by VP Chandler

Austin Mystery Writer Valerie Chandler

VP Chandler