Thursday, July 20, 2017

Good noir at a good bar, Part II: The Photographs

Angel Luis Colón
A few more photos from the Noir at the Bar I wrote about yesterday, all by Peter Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond Borders:
Suzanne Solomon
Nik Korpon, Angel Luis Colón, Nick Kolakowski,
Brian Panowich

Dj Alkimist, Nancy ThiLan Hart-Aymar

Suzanne Solomon (left), Ed Aymar
(right), Todd_Robinson and Rory
Costello (in mirror)

Joe Clifford
© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Good noir at a good bar, Part I

I've complained, most recently in a discussion on Jay Stringer's Facebook wall, that "too many writers (of noir and neo-noir) think sticking their characters in a trailer park and having them crack wise while spitting out teeth near the meth lab is enough." I recently attended a Noir at the Bar at New York's Shade Bar that presented several exceptions. Here's what made some of those readings stand out.

Danny Gardner. Photos by Peter
Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond
Borders, except where notes.
Danny Gardner is also a stand-up comedian and an actor, so he reads well. Beyond that, his story, from an upcoming anthology inspired by Johnny Cash's songs ("Black people love Johnny Cash," he said, citing Cash's employment of black musicians and his refusal to play venues were black people were not admitted), hit on social themes, striking hard without coming on preachy. His story, he said, is about gun violence, its consequences, and who causes it. (Hint: It's not young black males.) When he did address a social problem directly, it seemed more an exciting Brechtian provocation than middle-class slumming, guilt mongering, or do-gooding.

Brian M. Panowich
Brian Panowich, unrecognizable at first because I'd never seen him without his cowboy hat, read with expression and emotion and offered the terrific sight gag of yanking out one of his teeth. The villain of his story was unexpected, as were the MacGuffin and, especially, the story's ending. Like Gardner's story, Panowich's offered unflinching explicit violence. Unlike too much new noir, neo-noir, and recent hard-boiled, both took that violence seriously, again without preaching or anything approaching torture porn.

Eric Beetner
Eric Beetner, who runs Noir at the Bar in Los Angeles, threw a gracious hat tip my way for creating Noir at the Bar here in Philadelphia in 2008. He also read a story that embraced the misty glamour of 1940s Los Angeles in every word without, however, tumbling into schmaltz. That's no easy feat, and it shows the man has chops.

Ed Aymar
Ed Aymar, who organizes Noir at the Bar in Washington, D.C., read a story that centered on looting and packed a contemporary punch even as it harked back in a highly satisfying way to noir's roots in melodrama. And these four writers are four reasons I feel better about new noir and neo-noir than I did last week.

(Jen Conley and Scott Adlerberg organized the New York event, and Gardner, Panowich, Beetner, and Aymar were just four of a large group of readers. I'll write about some of them soon, In the meantime, here's a photo of all the readers plus Jen and Scott, courtesy of Mark Krajnak.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Le Trou, Donald Westlake, and everything: Atmosphere in noir and elsewhere

"`Don't you see? There's a plan there, but you have to convert it to the real world, to the people you've got and the places you'll be, and all the rest of it. You'd be the auteur."

-- May to Dortmunder in Jimmy the Kid, by Donald Westlake
Photos by Peter Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond Borders.
That photo at right is the closest thing to a noir photo I shot in New York Saturday, and that's only because it's black and white and has some dark shadows. OK, maybe the lack of natural light and the photo's underground setting have something to do with it. Oh, and the walkway in question runs under Times Square, but you might not know that unless I told you or unless you knew New York fairly well. But the point is that noir isn't just a literary form or a fatalistic view of life; it's also atmosphere.

It's Jeanne Moreau wandering through the streets of Paris in the rain looking for her lover in Elevator to the Gallows. It's Alain Delon smoking a cigarette in just about anything; Le Samourai will do for a start. Atmosphere of a different kind was at work in Le Trou, one of two movies that brought me to New York and the Film Forum.

Le Trou ("The Hole") is a 1960 French prison-break drama directed by Jacques Becker, and I suspect that many Americans will find that it doesn't feel like a prison movie. The five (!) prisoners crammed into a small cell at Paris' La Santé Prison don't fight or rape each other. Instead, they share the contents of packages they receive from the outside, and they cooperate on an escape plan.  The atmosphere, that is, is one of teamwork rather than confrontation. And Becker fills the movie with the five men digging and reconnoitering and planning without, however, gimmicky attention boosters and false drama and wrong turns and screeching music to tell viewers how they ought to feel. (J. Hoberman's New York Times article touches on some of these questions, with a hat tip to Suzanne Solomon for putting the article in my way.)
 
I included the Westlake snippet above because the coincidence of coming to a discussion of auteur theory just when I was preparing a post about a French movie from 1960 was too good to pass up. But Le Trou may remind viewers of Westlake's comic Dortmunder novels and the Parker heist dramas he wrote as Richard Stark. Parker is a planner and Dortmunder is a planner, and so are Roland and Manu, two of the cellmates who plan the escape in Le Trou. The other three are something like the Kelps and Murches and Grofields and Deverses who fill out the teams that execute Parker's and Dortmunder's plans.

I had some quibbles with Le Trou's ending; see the movie, and we'll talk about it.

© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

My sixth cover photo!

My latest book-cover photo is now available, complete with a novel by Philadelphia's own Tony Knighton. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Knighton's Three Hours Past Midnight joins a worthy group of crime novels and story collections whose covers have featured my photography.

That group includes:


© Peter Rozovsky 2017







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