Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Noir Mysteries


For me the dark nature of noir fiction fills a need. Perhaps it is the simple idea that the information age, filled with digital platforms that take you wherever you desire nearly instantaneously, allows too much "light" into life. It erases much of the mystery, the challenge, until we are left with thrill seeking as a means of escaping the one-way street aspect of it.

Six decades ago, life was closer to true black and white in more ways than just photography. Nothing stood out more than the contrast between the rampant crimes that plagued large cities, and the simple lives of the new middle class struggling to forget, move beyond a brutal four-year war that claimed millions of lives.

I have said it before, some returning GIs never really came home. They lived with the memories of battles raging in the background of their thoughts. They managed to put on a good face, almost faking a normal co-existence within society.

Inside they still wanted, or needed, to prove a point that good always overcomes evil. Yet there was little they could do to make their case over the clatter of ordinary people living around them with that "live and let live attitude" we often seem to seek when we tire of wading through media sewerage.

Even law enforcement sixty years ago, on some levels, was rancid and corrupt. How could the average Joe make sense of it all?

Mickey Spillane slammed a book down on the counter titled "I, The Jury" and the answer became crystal-clear. Noir fiction, although not created during post-war times, was then reborn and gave that lonely misplaced GI in so many veterans a place to retreat and feel that, yes, there was one guy out there who got the job done. Not to mention the dames who rolled off their seamed stockings to whet Mike Hammer's appetite for more than a smoking gun barrel.

Cops loved and hated Hammer. When he walked into a bar, or a room filled with people, everyone reacted and few did so mildly.

Yet, here we are sixty years later and still the need for dark fiction lives and breathes the mystery of dead-end alleys, blood splattered rooms, and a body locked in the trunk of a car dumped in the harbor by local mobsters out to make a point.

There is no end to what writers create; vampires once feared are now walking dead lovers.

For me, however, peeling back the decades exposing smoke-filled rooms, narrow corner taverns, and a killer who walked the street without fearing local cops, needed revisiting. For us today, it was a simpler time six decades ago, but for those living then, it was anything but simple.

When I began writing Marlowe Black mysteries, he ripped apart the Velcro hiding emotional ashes of the day's events. His attitude, actions conveyed my angst. Sounds dramatic, yet so does spending yet another day in rush hour traffic, sitting in a cubicle waiting for lunch, knowing digital reality would never release its stranglehold. Soon face recognition ads will flash in every storefront as we walk down the street to board the subway, grab a bus.

Good god, rip back the freaking Velcro, please and step into a time when privacy meant respect.

More to follow.

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