Noir at the Bar @Noircon
Oh, and %^%$! Jed Ayres and ^&*$#! Scott Phillips.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"
|People tell me I'm too negative: |
Your humble blogkeeper talks
about noir songs at the Philadelphia
Mausoleum of Contemporary Art
at Noircon 2012. Photo
courtesy of Cullen Gallagher
“This is my first Noircon. What attracted me is that I was asked to be the Guest of Honor, and no one could resist that.”— Otto Penzler, 2012
"Bitch-slapping the synapses of your brain," upon which another fellow attendee, knowing what I do for a living, asked, "Does bitch slapping take a hyphen?"
— Overheard at the hotel bar, 2010 (I should have replied: "Bitch-slapping takes a hyphen — and likes it." )
"Chubby Cambodian hotties."
— Christa Faust, 2008
Fellow Noircon attendee: "Are you a dog person or a cat person?"
Me: "Neither. I'm a vegetarian."
© Peter Rozovsky 2012, 2-14— Exchange at hotel bar Saturday night, Noircon 2012
"On March 23, 1976 ... Marlowe told a friend in a letter, `Gold Medal has just cancelled flat my Operation series.' Fawcett Gold Medal editor Joseph Elder had informed Marlowe, `Basically this kind of story is not working at all in today’s market. The mystery/ suspense novel as a paperback category is failing left and right, and very few of the category heroes are surviving.'”I was in my mid-teens then, which meant that by the time I was ready to start exploring crime fiction in a serious way, even reprints of those old paperback originals were going out of print, and the originals were often available only under plastic wrap, complete with brittle pages and high prices. (I have no figures to back me up, but I suspect that one benefit of electronic publishing is increased availability of books that had appeared as paperback originals. Gold Medal's decision to drop Marlowe, by the way, happened during CBS' takeover of Fawcett, which ran Gold Medal. No doubt CBS would have told worried readers that it was refocusing its crime offerings to better serve our customers. Always to better serve our customers.)
"Sunset Strip us a body of County territory entirely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles, a mile and a half of relentlessly contemporary architecture, housing, restaurants, bistros, Hollywood agents, and shops where the sell is as soft as a snowflake and just as cold."Find me a word-picture of L.A. this side of Raymond Chandler better than that one. And how about Bailey's observation that "if a private investigator keeps an open mind and avoids drafts he can learn an awful lot about his fellow man."? I like creative twists on de rigueur crime-fiction scenes, and I love avoids drafts.
"Spillane's fever-dream Manhattan is never as real as Lewis's London, and while Hammer is a good guy who defeats bad guys with their own methods, Carter is simply a bad guy with methods."Maybe that bleakness, that deadpan is what makes so many of Carter's observations so unsettling and so funny at the same time, including this, about the two gangster bosses for whom he is an enforcer and planner:
"The room I am in is all Swedish. It's a big room, low-ceilinged, and when Gerald and Less had it built on top of the club they'd let a little poof called Kieron Beck have his way with the soft furnishings. Everything about the room is dead right. The slightly sunken bit in the middle lined with low white leather settees ... the curtains that make a noise like paper money when you draw them—everything is perfect. The only things that look out of place are Gerald and Les. So much so that they make the place look as if you could have picked all the stuff up at Maple's closing-down sale."Jack Carter's Law is. so far, bleaker and wittier than the just about anything in the great Richard Stark's bleak and witty Parker novels. And it has the style that modern-day makers of gangster movies such as Guy Ritchie can only dream about.
"Aging street historians claimed to know the `real dirt.' The dentist, they said, had been passing for white in the East. He had built a sizeable and profitable practice in a well-to-do white community, and was doing quite well until his true colors were exposed. He, his white wife, and cocoa-brown, nappy-head, new-born son, were forced out of town, a few terrifying steps ahead of an angry lynch mob with perfect white teeth."I'm pretty sure Nazel would have read Chester Himes' Cotton Comes to Harlem. He calls his heroes Terrence Malcolm Slaughter and Fred "Dead-On-Arrival" Hollis (Hollis is the big eater), and those monikers look to me like affectionate, over-the-top nods to Himes' Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Like Himes' book, Street Wars has a sprawling cast chasing loot through a big-city black community, Like Himes, Nazel targets thieving preachers and self-proclaimed revolutionaries (though Nazel, whose book appeared years after Himes' 1965 novel, calls his revolutionaries "left over from the Sixties.").
"‘Maybe you’ll be introduced, find an excuse to say something, just make that vital connection. So next time you see her, no matter where it might be, you’ll have the confidence to talk to her a bit more. ... You might ask one of those hypothetical questions, you know, “Em, you know, so and so, well, em, I was thinking: do you know what would happen if I … There’s this friend of mine and he really likes her and he was thinking, and I said I would check for him, so do you think if he asked her out, you know, would she go, you know, out with him?” And the friend will probably answer, “Oh yes – where were you thinking of taking her to?”
"‘Then you ask her out. You go for a walk, you talk a lot ... and maybe, just maybe, after a couple of years you will discuss marriage. ... But it’s important, vitally important, that the early stages are as natural as humanly possible. Do youse understand that?’
"The twins nodded.
"‘So at what point in this procedure were youse two perverts going to tell the sorry lass that she’d be sleeping with both of you?’"That reminds me a bit of Pierre Magnan's crime novels of rural France for its amusing sexual slant, but especially for the delicious, slow pace with which the scene builds up to its punch line (I omitted parts of the exchange for reasons of length.) I look forward to more.
"I know you've been questioning the issue of a Northern Irish writer setting his hero in the Republic, then working with the North's PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). The main reason for it, I suppose, was to avoid the political. During the time of writing, policing was still a hot issue in Northern Ireland. I was aware that, as a Northern writer, people would rightly or wrongly look at the books for a political angle on the presentation of the PSNI. By filtering their presentation through Devlin's eyes, it allows Devlin to direct, to some extent, the reader's reactions and makes his response to the PSNI a personal rather than political one. I hope that makes sense.
"In addition, the PSNI was changing so much that, by the time the book would have been published, their presentation would have been out of date. Some Northern Irish politicians still complain if it's discovered that Guards are coming into Northern Ireland — on the ground it's happening much more frequently than people expect, I imagine. I thought that was an interesting and unique angle from which to approach a police procedural."And of course the Guards over here have had their own problems recently — considered more fully perhaps in the second Devlin book, Gallows Lane.
"As for the Troubles — I wanted to write a non-Troubles book but, around the Border, it would be unrealistic to assume that they're not there somewhere — thus the only representation of the Troubles in Borderlands is the disembodied voice, talking about the past. It's there, but increasingly insubstantial. Or that was my intention, at least."
|He was around when the myths were real.|
Bog body ("Gallagh Man"), National
Museum of Ireland, Dublin. Photo by
your humble blogkeeper.
|(Trees early in the morning in Fullerton, Calif., December 2013. |
Photo by Peter Rozovsky, your humble blogkeeper)
"is it credible to have a twenty-year-old Edith or Beryl or Victor? It’s possible, but those names may be unknown in certain demographics. Similarly, how many fifty-year-olds are named Kanye or Jadyn? If one really wants to name a character as such, a bit of backstory behind the mismatching name-to-age might be interesting in the story."I would add any name ending in -ee to that latter group, along with Jen, and all the world's non-Irish Brendans.
|(Photo by your humble blogkeeper; has|
nothing to do with Dan J. Marlowe)
"He sighed, stretched lengthily..."
"He stripped the bed, walked stiffleggedly to the bathroom.."
"Inside the panelled doors he rushed softfootedly past the drowsing drinkers..."
"Manuel’s dark eyes lingered fascinatedly..."
“`Come in, come in!' Lieutenant Dameron barked irritatedly..."
"Resignedly he dried his face and took down the electric razor."
"I backed out tanglefootedly under Mrs. Newman’s bright-eyed inspection."to which I smiled not just amazedly, but also appreciatingly. In any case, by the time Strongarm appeared in 1963, the extravagant-adverb count was way down, from Doorway to Death's 73 words ending in -dly to 43.
"Dexter's books are essentially puzzles. He once said that he was as anxious for the detective to manage without a pathology lab as he was for the crossword puzzler to manage without a dictionary."
-- Paul Charles on Colin Dexter
"For all the talk of Hammett and Chandler as the founders of the hard-boiled feasts--and I revere them as much as the next guy or gal--it's Spillane and [James M.] Cain who were the most influential."
-- Max Allan Collins on Mickey Spillane
"As she grew more successful and confident, the humanity began to drain from her books. Most of us would not act like the unruffled, aloof Tom Ripley, but every one of us could see himself falling into the abyss of cowardice and mendacity that finally drives poor Guy Haines to kill."
-- Adrian McKinty on Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train
-- Stuart Neville on James Ellroy
"This was not literature that uplifted the race. Cooper wasn't profiled in the pages of Ebony or, I imagine, discussed much, if at all, among the self-identified arts and literature crowd. The Urban League wouldn't be inviting him to speak at their annual dinner."
-- Gary Phillips on Clarence Cooper Jr.'s The Scene
Labels: Adrian McKinty, Bouchercon, Bouchercon 2014, Clarence Cooper Jr., Colin Dexter, Gary Phillips, James Ellroy, Max Allan Collins, Mickey Spillane, Patricia Highsmith, Paul Charles, Stuart Neville
|Lawrence Block remembers his friend|
Donald Weslake during a celebration
at Mysterious Bookshop. Photo by Peter
Rozovsky, your humble blog keeper.
"When the guy with asthma finally came in from the fire escape Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away."and
"When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed."and
"Grofield opened his right eye, and there was a girl climbing in the window. He closed that eye, opened the left, and she was still there."Do you see the fun Westlake has with a common speech pattern in that last example? Lawrence Block was right. Westlake didn't just say funny things, he said things funny.
|Rostam rescues Bizhan from the pit, |
from a 17th-century manuscript of
the Shahnameh, London, British Library
"He always carried in his boot / A blue-steel dagger."Can you guess where in my recent reading that's from? (Hint: The book was written in the 10th and 11th centuries.)
'"The night was like jet dipped in pitch. there lent /That's the beginning of "The Story of Bizhan and Manizha" from Iran/Persia's national epic the Shahnameh (Book of Kings), and it's a hell of a way of saying, "It was dark out." Think of it as a medieval Near Eastern counterpart to:
No planet lustre to the firmament /
The moon, appearing in her new array /
Through rust and dust she journeyed through the sky /
Night's retinue had spread out everywhere /
A carpet black as raven's plumes ... "
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”And now, readers, what are your favorite depictions of night, or your favorite pieces of atmosphere in general, in crime fiction or otherwise?
|(Photos by Peter Rozovsky, your humble blog keeper)|