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Monday, August 15, 2011


Having hit a wall with the memoir, I've convinced Michele (agent) that we should focus all our efforts on my other book, the Lone Palm, a noir novel set in an alternate, darker San Francisco.  This isn't the first time I've put the LP out there, which though technically written after Junkie Love was the first book I tried getting published after grad school.  Of course, I didn't have an agent then, didn't know what the hell I was doing, and if you've read any of my query fail posts (, you'll see why I don't feel as though I beat that horse sufficiently.  I won't bore you with the rewrite process, which is probably tantamount to all my drummer friends who get wet just thinking about Terry Bozzio's drum clinic demonstrations with seven bass pedals and fourteen different time sigs: a methodology of interest to practitioners alone, and a complete fucking bore to everyone else.  But let me say, I've always thought the Lone Palm had a better shot at being my first publication, because it's the more commercial of the two.  Not that it's flawless, but I think the flaws can be remedied.  Which is what I've been doing all weekend, trying to eliminated any lingering antiquated language that harkens too much back to Chandler (the first couple drafts were too derivative in terms of its vernacular), highlighting more the love story, fleshing out some of the female characters, etc.

Noir is where my future is.  It's what I love reading.  It's what I want to write.  And while its seemed for a while all anyone wanted was my non-fiction (drug) stuff, lately it's the noir short stories that are getting taken, and noir is where I hope my star is rising.

All of which begs the question, am I delusional?  Probably.  But the bigger question is what exactly constitutes "noir"?  And the simple answer is, Who the fuck knows? Noir used to be this:

Which is a fan recut trailer I lazily pulled off YouTube from a movie called Detour. I first saw Detour one year during the Roxie's annual Film Noir Festival.  Blew me away, and has remained my favorite true film noir.  Of course, that is classifying my definition of "film noir," which is another virtually usually term given over to myriad interpretations.  When Inception came out last year, it was labeled "neo-noir," because apparently "piece of shit crapfest with gaping plot holes, shoddy writing, and complete waste of Joe's fucking time" didn't win over focus groups. Still you can't fault the filmmakers.  OK, in this case you can fault the filmmakers. But you can understand why they used the noir tag, because there's been a goddamn renaissance when it comes to the term.  Or maybe it never went away.

Technically, noir just comes from the French word for black (see, Esther, told you I know French).  So by that definition, a movie like The Dark Knight is noir (and since I don't want it to seem like I don't love Christopher Nolan, I can't heap enough praise on this, and his other very noirish--and one of the most perfectly paced and skillfully crafted films you'll ever see--the excellent Memento.  But Inception is awful; don't try defending it, Ron).

This isn't a scholarly blog.  In fact, it's decidedly anti-scholarly.  There are countless articles and books out there that attempt to define both the word and allure of noir. There isn't enough space--well, there is enough space, because the Internet never ends, but there isn't enough time for me to delve into what actually constitutes "noir."  Because Holden is a terror (more than usual) today, and furthermore, I've never come across anything definitive that makes the venture seem prudent (i.e., I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about).

Plus, I don't write for the pictures (at least not yet), and when it comes to...literature, the word is even more muddled.  Unless you hang out where I've been hanging out lately, with a decidedly fucked-up bunch of writers at sites like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Dirty Noir, Flash Fiction Offensive, et al, and following all the great writers it comprises.  There, noir is simple: it's fucked up people doing fucked up things. It's lowlifes and thugs, petty crooks and bank robbers, it's duplicitous pretty women and broken dreams.  Or to save time, it's like the title from a book by one of our LSW readers Friday: blood, guns, whores.  Noir a worldview, a disposition, an outlook and lifestyle.  It's notan, an existence defined by the negative, the absence.  Yet, in the best of noir there is the flash of hope, the possibility that something better exists, or why else keep trying?  You just ain't getting there.

Hell, if you want the best noir novel I've ever read, pick up Jim Thompson's After Dark My Sweet.  Maybe it'll help you define the word better than I can.  And even if it doesn't, you get a helluva read.

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At August 15, 2011 at 8:59 AM , Blogger DSobczak said...

I wonder if you have ever seen the movie Johnny Eager. It certainly fits into Noir and is worth seeing, if only to marvel at Van Heflin's performance in it.


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