Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bcon panels: What's your favorite non-standard setting for noir?

Here are three brief excerpts from Setup on Front Street, first of Mike Dennis' Key West Nocturnes novels:
"`I'm Special Agent Ryder,' he said. `I understand you've been having some trouble with former mayor Whitney.'

"I had to laugh. Is there anything in this town that isn't public knowledge?"

"Now that I was running plastic, I needed to buy some new clothes, but I didn't want to chance any buys in Key West.

"Like Yale said, it's a small town."
"See, this is one of the downsides of living your whole life in a small town. The cop knows what happened, and he knows that I know. Pretty soon, it'll be in the fucking paper."
Those passages do double duty as a leitmotif, tying the story together, and as an answer to the question of why Key West is a good place to set a noirish crime story. Noir is all about constriction, about the world closing in on the protagonist, and since a small town can be a constricted place even for those not just out of prison trying to collect old debts, getting ripped off, and running into  mobsters and corrupt politicians, you can imagine how tough it is on Dennis' Don Roy Doyle.

But let's talk about you.  What's your favorite non-standard noir setting, i.e., not New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, et al.? How does the author convince you that his or her unusual setting is a good one?
Mike Dennis will be part of my "Goodnight, My Angel: Hard-Boiled, Noir, and the Reader's Love Affair With Both" panel at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany on Friday, Sept. 20, at 10:20 a.m.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Dana King said...

As might be guessed from my recent efforts, I've become interested in small towns and rural settings. Maybe it's from seeing movies and TV shows like WINTER'S BONE and JUSTIFIED, or reading books like SETUP ON FRONT STREET (which I read a while ago). A couple of things appeal to me:

--there are things outside the characters' control, but not so far outside they can't become aware of them, due to the constricted space.

--the stakes are small in the grand scheme of things, yet enormous in the context of the story. The "end of life as we know it" isn't necessarily a higher stake than "the end of life as I know it."

There's an irony there that lends itself well to noir, how what is a matter of life and death to the characters may not matter to anyone outside their setting, but it's still life and death to them.

August 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect that most readers think of noir as an urban thing: the alienation and anonymity of big cities, and so on. In re own efforts, Grind Joint’s setting on an urban fringe combines aspects of city and small-town stories, a nice touch.

August 25, 2013  
Blogger Jakub Demiańczuk said...

Almost all cities in Scandinavians crime novels are perfect noir settings. But my favourite is probably Aberdeen in Stuart MacBride's novel. Not quite noir, but noir-ish.

September 01, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd say Scandinavian noirishness is in the minds of its characters and their creators. I don't find anything particularly noirish about Scandinavian cities as depicted in crime fiction.

Scottish cities are a different matter, and I'm not even that big an Ian Rankin fan. But William McIlvanney's Glasgow is a memorable noir city, and Russel McLean has some amusing things to say about Dundee, Scotland's fourth city. I may take a look at MacBride once Bouchercon is done. He has been recommended to me before.


September 01, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

At the bookstore where I worked, when I was collecting the Akashic Noir books (Dublin Noir, etc.), some of us got to joking about what would be the most unlikely collection. Branson and Myrtle Beach were some of the ones we came up with.

September 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Some of us here in Philadelphia were amused that Portland got its Akashic noir volume before Philadelphia did.

September 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And Donald Westlake wrote a crime novel set largely in Branson called Baby, Would I Lie? that I liked.

September 12, 2013  

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