Monday, October 24, 2011

Opinion and (Subliminal) Promotion — Noir and Me Revisited: Urban Noir, Rural Noir, '50s Noir, Pre-School Noir, Glee Club Noir

“Good God Man!” exclaimed the colonel as he nearly stumbled over the corpse. He handed his glass of sherry to the butler and straightened his blazer. “Have you no shame?” The man on the floor with the knife in his back didn’t answer.


She looked out of her swollen, soulless, drunken eyes. “You don’t even know you’re a bottom-feeder, do you, pal? You knew you were about to take a trip, but you didn’t know where.” She coughed. The empty hypodermic slipped from the bruised, blue and yellow flesh of her arm and her eyes began to roll back. “Well, sucker, you’re five minutes from the tropic of Hell. Hope you brought your shorts.”

That was fun. I don’t know if it was helpful, let alone publishable, but I wanted to make a point. The extremes may be clear, but within the genre many of the lines are fuzzy. Cozy, soft-boiled, suspense, thrillers, hard-boiled, noir are genres or subgenres or maybe sub-subgenres. Noir is a subgenre of crime novels — at least that’s my understanding. But then there are books described as urban noir, rural noir, ‘50’s noir, neo noir. Can you say “neo noir” five times really fast? Are these sub-subgenres? The problem for me is that I’m not really sure what I write. (Don’t take advantage of that straight line in the comment section. Too easy.)

None of my books are cozies. That much is clear. And because any sense of doom is dealt with before the last page, I’m not writing noir. With the exception of the standalone Good to the Last Kiss, there’s not a whole lot of nihilism going on in anything I write. Well maybe a little. In the end though, I’d even have trouble convincing anyone that the Shanahan mysteries are hardboiled. Shanahan is no Mickey Spillane or Jack Reacher. He can’t take out 15 guys in a bar all by himself. And he doesn’t relish killing people, even people he dislikes. He likes to solve cases. He’s 70. He’s smart and determined. But he’s not likely to scare a room full of ex-cons.

“Wry,” the critics often say of the Shanahan books. He is often described as “curmudgeonly.” The stories aren’t soft-boiled either. Nor are they sunny-side up. More like over not too easy. So, if Agatha Christie’s books are poached eggs and, say Mickey Spillane’s are ready for the Easter basket, maybe my Shanahan novels are “scrambled with onions and mushrooms.” Add a little basil and you have my San Francisco series, Death in Pacific Heights and Death in North Beach. Because they take place in Northern California, we’ll add some wine as well and call them Pinot Noir.

But the news of the day is that the first four in the Shanahan series will be re-released in trade paperback and for the very first time in e-book. You should see the announcement here — along with new covers — in a couple of weeks.

Caption: Bullet Beach is the tenth and most recent Deets Shanahan mystery and is now available in hardback, trade paperback and e-book.

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