Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More about Noir Mysteries


More on Noir Mysteries as I understand them

Here are the first sentences included in the previous post along with the authors and book titles.


It was like coming back from death. Chinese Nightmare by Hugh Pentecost

He lay there in a silk-lined casket looking very waxy, but it was eight to five that he looked no more waxy than me. Slab Happy by Richard S. Prather

We could see the low bone-white hotel now, its wings curving toward the sea like the base of a sun-bleached skull. Dead Man's Walk by Richard S. Prather

The guy was dead as hell. Vengeance is Mine by Mickey Spillane

It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick walk. The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett

The man and the girl walked slowly, close together, past a dim stencil sign that said: Surprise Hotel. Pick-Up on Noon Street by Raymond Chandler

Rain. It washed the two men, slid down their raincoated bodies, and made a sea of mud at the open graves at their feet. The Plastic Man by David J. Gerrity

The father of PI Noir fiction was Carroll John Daly. He wrote the first Noir Mystery. While he, like Mickey Spillane a couple of decades later, was vastly popular with readers, critics did not regard either man as serious a writer.

An interesting fact is that books written by both writers are easily available today online.

What I want to do now is quote my personal favorite opening paragraph, which made me want to read this book. Although the first sentence is terrific, the entire paragraph is better.

From One Lonely Night by Mickey Spillane.

Nobody ever walked across the bridge, not on a night like this. The rain was misty enough to be almost fog-like, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy, yellow lights off in the distance.

The second paragraph is as good, maybe a little better.

The significance of all of the above has to do with setting a mood, tugging on an emotion that lies just beneath one's mental flesh. The transition from reader, to a person who is suddenly part of the story as a vicarious bystander tagging along after the protagonist, is subtle yet quite effective if done successfully.

The technique is based on knowing how to find that small opening behind a reader's eyes where words are inserted, and transformed into a scene that expresses what the protagonist feels as the reader steps into the page with him.

Perhaps it is learned, or maybe finding it requires only a good level of self-awareness. What makes me as a writer tick? If I write a sentence to open a story, do I feel something as I write, or after?

Many writers delete their original opening paragraphs or just the first sentence because when they reread it later, the words do not accomplish the act of involving the reader.

Next we'll look at some modern writers of Noir.



Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites Subscribe with Bloglines