Short Story in a Song/ Noir Songs: Randy Newman’s In Germany Before The War by Paul D. Brazill

For many years, Randy Newman meant very little to me although he had always been in my peripheral vision.

I knew Alan Price’s version of ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’ from when I was a kid and I was aware of ‘Short People’ but he was someone on the horizon; a writer of novelty songs. Of no interest to someone who grew up on glam rock and punk, then.

However, at some point in the eighties, during one of my longest periods of unemployment, I borrowed Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’ from the public library thinking that her voice could transform shit into shinola no matter what the song was. It was a ragged and occasionally brilliant album but the, (Newman penned), song ‘Baltimore’ impressed.

Some time after that, I visited the town’s premier second-hand record shop ‘The Other Record Shop’ where Newman’s ‘Little Criminals’ was always in the fifty pence section. The cover didn’t appeal but I bought it anyway.

A classic album, of course, but the strongest impact was from this one song. Lush strings, plaintive piano,  an aching nostalgic feeling. I loved it though I played it without really listening. So, I played it again. And listened.

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf …’

Lovely sepia images. Snapshots and memories of somewhere that you’ve never been.

And more:

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea ..’

A sad, sense of yearning. But then something changes :

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her…’

The nostalgic melody starts to seem sinister. The lovely strings are like malignant clouds spreading across the sky. The river seems dark and dangerous .The plaintive piano seems to be stalking.

No, you think. It can’t be.

But then:

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still’

And you know it IS.

It chilled me more than any song had before. And maybe even since.

In Germany Before The War, it turns out, was inspired by the classic 1931 Fritz Lang film M, which featured Peter Lorre as a serial child killer.

This in turn was inspired by Peter Kürten who was known as the Düsseldorf Ripper, the Vampire of Düsseldorf or the Monster of Düsseldorf and was executed in July 1931 after confessing to nine murders.

Here are the lyrics:

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf

And every night at fine-o-nine

He’d cross the park down to the Rhine

And he’d sit there by the shore

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray



I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still

This post first appeared at Jedidiah Ayres’ Hardboiled Wonderland as part of his NARRATIVE MUSIC series.

Some Thoughts on Blue Collar Noir by Vicki Hendricks

Vicki Hendricks head shot-cropped (2)When my first noir novel Miami Purity came out in ‘95, with its graphic and multitudinous sex scenes, it was described as lurid in such a way, especially in the UK, that you could almost visualize reviewers licking their lips. The world was ready for the explicit sex James M. Cain couldn’t write in his day—not that his novels suffered any for lack of it. The heavy dose of sex in Miami Purity put a new spin on the noir genre, finding a new audience. Noir fiction continues to evolve and remake itself while the underlying themes remain similar to naturalist literature of the late 19th Century. Crime-noir protagonists are still basically like characters in the works of writers like Dreiser and Crane, formed through inescapable forces of heredity and environment, confined by class and lack of opportunity, but with the traditional noir enhancement of committing murder as a way of breaking out of their predicament. Of course, it never works!

The latest evolution of noir, sometimes called blue-collar noir, fits the classic noir/naturalist definition without the necessity of murder. Manslaughter and misdemeanor thrive, as survival tactics, rather than the fantasized ticket to wealth most often associated with murder. Coal miners, sanitation workers, and other outliers of the American Dream, neglected by the literary mainstream (except in the South) have come into the limelight as protagonists in the current blue-collar inspired remaking of noir. Noir characters can never climb out of the pit, by definition, but current noir writers don’t necessarily believe that people are stuck at a low station in life, as the naturalist novelists did, though rising in status ain’t never easy. We read to see these bold, raw humans reach resignation, minor epiphanies, or an elevation of spirit.

Voluntary Madness final cover 55-a (1)Years ago, the poet Charles Bukowski defined the “blue-collar noir” category infamously, without giving it a genre name.  At Noircon 2014 (held every other year in Philadelphia), the debut of the anthology Stray Dogs: Writing from the Other America highlighted contemporary writers of blue-collar noir: Willy Vlautin, Daniel Woodrell, Sherman Alexie, Eric Miles Williamson, Ron Cooper, Joseph D. Haske, Michael Gillis, and me, among others. Paul Allen, Mark Safranko, Dan Fante, and Matthew McBride are also recent, noteworthy writers whose work arguably falls into this blue-collar evolution of the noir sensibility. Evie Wyld does great blue-collar, murderless noir in Australia. Wherever you’ve got a working man or a man out of work (or woman), you’ve got the makings of the newest noir: hard-nosed, hard-hitting, and relevant to our society because of its realism.

My novel Voluntary Madness, which just came out in a reissue from New Pulp Press, features manslaughter in the Hemingway House. And Fur People, my newest novel, is filled with misdemeanors—crimes due to poverty and animal hoarding. These novels take place in Florida, the un-southernmost southernmost state. They take their inspiration from traditional noir but seek to extend the range of this ever-changing and vital genre.

Serena Bramble -Through a Camera Lense, Noirly: Reflections on Gloria Grahame


Gloria Grahame’s acting was like sex: even when it was really bad, it was still pretty fucking great. Maybe it was her pouty, cotton-stuffed lips. Or her eyes, which alternately purred, “Yeah, I know what you want,” then in a blink contradicted themselves with pleas of a better life. Eddie Muller said last year in his introduction of Fritz Lang’s Human Desire that “you were never quite sure whether she was going to mix you a cocktail or slit your throat.” But the best way of explaining the appeal of Gloria Grahame is to understand something Humphrey Bogart told her while they were filming the seminal noir love story In a Lonely Place: “Stay in the shadows and let the camera come to you.”

Grahame claimed to be a descendant of British royalty, but the closest she came to royalty was the mistress of Noir City, her mark in Hollywood history. Neglected at MGM, who didn’t know what to do with her, her contract was sold to RKO, with included films at Colombia for Harry Cohn. She won an Oscar for her most anemic performance, the trademark of many classic Hollywood stars. Her star faded nearly as quickly as it arrived, fizzling out by the end of the 1950s when she moved to England and turned to Broadway (imagine her Lady Macbeth). A decade after her death, Annette Bening‘s performance as a sexy but dim con artist in The Grifters was nominated for an Oscar, a performance which Bening herself said was modeled after Gloria Grahame from The Big Heat. Her likeness has been used on hardcover novels. Although no longer a household name, Grahame’s influence on art and culture is still with us today.

And yet, for such a beautiful, earthy actress who made her mark in film noirs, it’s astonishing how few times Grahame played a true femme fatale. There is, of course, her conniving turn as a woman attempting to kill Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear, possibly her only turn as a true fatal woman. Lower on the danger thermometer are her roles for Fritz Lang in Human Desire and The Big Heat, where she tries to take justice into her own hands, but Grahame remains the most sympathetic character in both films, and her attempts at vengeance are justly deserved. She was icy in Macao and The Good Die Young but was used more as decoration and had little to do with the crime of each respective film. Violet Bick of It’s a Wonderful Life was nearly a prostitute in Pottersville, sure, but for the vast majority of the film, she’s little more than the innocent town flirt. Most sympathetic are her performances full of world-weary loneliness as prostitute in Crossfire (her favorite performance), and a failed actress still hopeful for a brighter future in In a Lonely Place. The contradiction visible in nearly all these performances is between Grahame’s superficial flirtiness and her inner vulnerability. Her characters might’ve been open to a night of passion, but at the end of the next morning, all she really wanted was be taken care of.

So let’s begin with her breakthrough performance, as Ginny in Crossfire. Just as George Bailey inadvertently saves Violet Bick from a life of prostitution, Frank Capra’s casting of Grahame in It’s a Wonderful Life saved her from boredom and gave her her first small breakthrough, which included being on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1946. And it’s really prevalent that Grahame’s contract should’ve been sold after only 2 credited film appearances from the wooden glamor of MGM to the darker shadows of RKO, for RKO‘s reputation as making some of the best film noirs allowed Grahame a chance to show more of her weary soul than her youthful body. By the time she was cast in Crossfire, a military noir about anti-Semitism, she had all the experience of having dreams dashed away. Even as her career was about to take off, she still couldn’t forget the wasted years at MGM where nobody knew what to do with her. This longing made her the perfect candidate to play weary prostitute Ginny (or as I like to think of her, the Pottersville version of Violet), where Grahame perfectly brings deft gravity to what could easily have been a cliched role in the wrong hands–just watch her eyes as she hesitates into accepting a dance asked only out of gratitude and not by a desire for sex. She was nominated for her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and by some contemporary opinions (such as yours truly), given the competition she should have won.

After an unsuccessful 3 years at RKO, Grahame was given her finest role when her then-husband, Nicholas Ray, thought she would be perfect for the female lead in his latest film. The movie was hauntingly titled In a Lonely Place. Grahame would be playing opposite Humphrey Bogart, who was also the producer. The role was one she could only understand all too well: A failed, somewhat hardened actress who’s spent too many sunrises in Tinseltown and not enough film credits to prove it. She meets and falls in love with a dysfunctional screenwriter named Dixon Steele, an alter-ego for the director Nicholas Ray. But like the name of the character she portrays, christened Laurel Gray, Grahame transcends the black-and-white conventions of a femme fatale; Laurel Gray’s actions–fluffing Dix’s pillows, nurturing his artistic needs, providing emotional support–have no ulterior motive. They are done purely and simply out of love and a need to love someone in the lonely place that is Hollywood.

I will never be able to write without bias or passion for Ray’s film. I can’t. I think it’s the most exquisite, romantic, emotional, personal film ever to have come out of Hollywood. No other film can warm my heart in the hope that Laurel and Dix will overcome their flaws and find hard-earned happiness in each other’s arms, and then shred it on a cheese grater when I see their chance slowly fall apart. It’s the kind of heart-breaking love story I love: two people who are a perfect match for each other but their own adult neuroses and vulnerabilities are what cause complications and road blocks, not the four-letter “F” word which screenwriters love to use as a plot device to get pretty people to crash into each others’ lives. Nicholas Ray and his duo were too wise to belittle their audience, and anyone who first watches In a Lonely Place will understand this, and be grateful. As the doomed lovers, Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame play off each other marvelously, and together they carry the weight of a fragile love affair–and all the emotions that come with it–from the first frame of Bogart’s eyes aimlessly watching the road on a lonesome night like many before, to Grahame’s tear-stained declaration of love walking out the door.

Although In a Lonely Place should’ve been Grahame’s breakthrough to better projects, the film wasn’t a spectacular box-office success and when she went back to RKO to literally ask Howard Hughes for better roles, he admitted that he never watched Ray’s film and refused to loan her out for choice projects such as Born Yesterday and A Place in the Sun. She toiled in supporting roles which required little more than to be beautiful decoration that, when Nicholas Ray did uncredited re-shoots for Macao, she actually told him she wouldn’t ask for a penny of alimony if he could get her out of that movie (time has now proved that Ray didn’t succeed).

But some of her best work was yet to come, and it was Fritz Lang who gave her two of her most memorable and fascinating roles in film noir. The first was 1953’s The Big Heat, perhaps Grahame’s most famous role of a gangster’s moll who takes a hot pot of coffee to the face, in the process transforming her from shallow opportunist to vengeful anti-heroine. With one role, Grahame isn’t just terrific, she became immortally cinematic–and cinematically immortal–as the one woman who didn’t back down to Lee Marvin. Her much-deserved revenge has agelessly survived as one of the best and delicious examples of a woman scored ever burned into memory.

-Human-Desire-(1954)Her second and final film for Lang is the gem Human Desire, in which she is reunited with her Big Heat co-star Glenn Ford. Like the trio’s first outing, Grahame’s role begins as a somewhat dim woman in the wrong relationship, but by the end she enters the gray area between traditional femme fatale and a woman who deserves her revenge. Grahame portrays Vicki, a woman in a dreadfully unhappy marriage to Carl (played by Broderick Crawford, which is the first sign this character’s a schmuck). But Carl is not nearly as benign as Mr. Dietrichson of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity; in the first 30 minutes, the recently laid off Carl manages to convince his wife into “talking” with his boss (her former lover) into getting his job back, beats her when he finds out she did more than talk, kills his boss, forces her into helping disposing of the body, and then blackmails her with proof of her involvement. This guy’s not gonna win Husband of the Year anytime soon.

It’s only natural that she would take up with the more stable and age-appropriate returning vet Glenn Ford, who is drawn enough into her spell that he agrees to take part of her plan to murder her husband after she reveals her black-and-blue bruises. But unlike The Big Heat, her revenge is not one of maniacal laughs, but one tinged with utter sadness and despair. In fact, the film evades the pattern set by Double Indemnity by NOT having Ford go through with the killing of Grahame’s husband, thereby leaving her without an exit. I have never felt more sympathy towards a character who is designed to be a femme fatale than I have for Grahame’s Vicki, and if the true femme fatales of WWII summoned the dark demons of the working man’s ideal of an American Dream, the noir females of the 50s revealed a suffocated look at the suburban housewife. In the end it is Vicki’s sad knowledge of this that leads her to ultimately entice her husband into ending her life, in a conclusion that reminds one of the finale of In a Lonely Place, though without a sense of irony or haunted loss that poetically infused Ray’s film.

Grahame’s film career all but fizzled out by 1959, when she bowed out and returned to the stage, with at least one more scandalous marriage and divorce in her future and a trail of men in her past. One of her more memorable final roles was as Robert Ryan’s sultry neighbor in Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow, in which she memorably steals the precious moments she’s in, but by that time her vocal cadence had come to a point where it sounded like she was trying desperately to get over a stutter; although this could be considered a character quirk Grahame came up with, it’s probably more likely due to her numerous attempts to make her lips appear bigger, and her insecurity about her body would indirectly contribute to her death–when she learned she had cancer, she denied being sick and refused treatment that would alter her physically for the worse. She would die of cancer at the age of 57.

But like Vicki’s own reasons for torturing her husband into killing her, Grahame’s end only mirrored the sultry image she forever left on the screen: Gloria Grahame tempted Fate, and Fate accepted.

serena bBio: Serena Bramble is a woman of no importance (yet), but she aspires to be a film editor, having been awarded the first-ever Endless Night Award at the 8th Annual Noir City by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller (the prize was the latest edition of Final Cut Pro). A graduate of the Santa Rosa Junior College, she hopes to soon obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in film. She has been a devoted and utterly romantic lover of film, especially the classics, since the age of 17 when she fatefully watched His Girl Friday and never looked back in the rear view mirror. And she doesn’t give a damn if you are directing the Linda Lovelace biopic, if you say Nicholas Ray is overrated, she will shun you on Facebook for the rest of your virtual life.

You can find Serena on Facebook or visit her blog, Brief Encounters of the Cinematic Kind: http://briefcinematicencounters.blogspot.com/2009/12/aloha.html

 
 
“The love impulse in man frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.”

Revisiting Shadow Of A Doubt by K A Laity

soadThough it’s fallen out of fashion a wee bit, Hitchcock seemed to always consider this film his finest and people as wildly varying in their opinions as David Mamet and the baying jackals, er, critics of Rotten Tomatoes agree. Shadow of a Doubt offers a gripping tale with gruesome undertones. It’s a genuine snapshot of the American dream that brings out the nightmare inherent in its blindness, yet demonstrates its resilience without schmaltz.

Thornton Wilder penned the original script, though it was enhanced by the hands of Sally Benson (Meet Me in St. Louis) and Alma Reville (AKA Lady Hitchcock). I don’t really know how much input they had, yet I can’t help but feel Benson must have added a good bit. Wilder’s characters can be too mannered and the character of young Charlie is just so good. Consider the gals in St. Louis: Judy Garland’s Esther, the sweet girl next door, also belts the boy she thinks hurt her sister and Margaret O’Brien’s Tootie is really a monster child, causing chaos.

In any case we have a masterful film from Hitchcock that plays on some timeless themes: the charming cad who might be a murderer, the small town kid who longs for more excitement and the happy family about the be ripped apart. Hitchcock makes the most of the idea of shadows. While people don’t always think of this as noir, it certainly gets there quickly—peeling back the veneer of small town innocence to show the darkness behind it, just as Uncle Charlie snarls at his niece.

Joseph Cotten is superb as the Merry Widow Killer suspect. Hitchcock apparently wanted to use the beloved William Powell, but his studio refused to share him. Delightful as it is to contemplate him playing the role, Cotten owns this as much as he does The Third Man. When he slips and lets the monster out from behind the charmer’s mask, it’s utterly chilling.

Teresa Wright has a challenging transformation to make her dreamer of a girl courageous enough to stand up to a cold murderer. I always think I would have made Charlie more tomboyish but there’s something wonderful (and nigh-on Oedipal) in the doting niece leading her uncle around town with such pride. There’s the wonderful kitchen scene where she gushes about their being almost “twins”. He slips the fateful ring onto her finger in a parody of an engagement scene.

Everything works so well; Dimitri Tiomkin’s often ironic and nearly deranged use of the Merry Widow waltz loops around from light-hearted to menacing. We see Charlie struggle with the ideas of loyalty and family and the ending—apparently not the one Wilder scripted—avoids a neat resolution yet offers hope of the abiding kind: that we can always choose how we meet evil, because meet it we will. As Hitchcock told the press at the time, “Love and good order is no defense against evil”.

Bio: K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of White RabbitA Cut-Throat BusinessLush SituationOwl Stretching, Unquiet DreamsÀ la Mort SubiteThe Claddagh IconChastity FlamePelzmantel and Other Medieval Tales of Magic and Unikirja, as well as editor of Weird NoirNoir Carnival and the forthcoming Drag Noir. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She spent the 2011-2012 academic year in Galway, Ireland where she was a Fulbright Fellow in digital humanities at NUIG. Dr. Laity has written on popular culture and social media for Ms., The Spectator and BitchBuzz, and teaches medieval literature, film, gender studies, New Media and popular culture at the College of Saint Rose. She divides her time between upstate New York and Dundee.

Paul D. Brazill Interviews Tom Pitts


cover-pitts-101-2.png

PDB: You latest book is called 101. What’s it all about?

In a nutshell, it’s set against the Northern California pot business on the cusp of legalization. A kid on the run from trouble in San Francisco goes to hide out there and brings a whole lot of trouble with him. There’s a wild array of characters who’re in on the chase and they race back down the 101, converging in Oakland to settle their scores.

PDB: How has pot legalisation changed life in America?

The worst is yet to come. So far, in California, all we’ve seen is more and more laws and regulations. They’re coming up with new ones every week. If it keeps up, the black market will be back in business. A lot of the laws seemed designed to cut out the little guy, the small-time grower who previously flourished. It takes a pile of money to get in on the legal side now, the kind of money that comes from corporations and tech and venture capitalists. Out on the street things are generally the same, except you can smell weed everywhere. No exaggeration.  Bars, malls, restaurants, billowing out of cars.

PDB:  What’s best, critical or commercial success?

Critical. No question. There’s the pragmatic in me that says take the money. But, the truth is, you create what you create. If it’s going to last, it’s got to be good. You don’t need millions of dollars to be happy. You know what’ll make you happy? Leaving behind something great. If a critical success is also a commercial success, then good for the creator. Pretty unlikely it’ll happen with one of my books though. But if you start off looking for commercial success, you’ll end up with something watered down and forgettable. This is what I learned from music. Forget about what the audience wants and just create. Then, if it’s good, it’ll resonate.

PDB: Do you judge a book by its cover?

You have to judge a book by its cover. You do it whether you want to or not. Are there exceptions? Of course there are and I don’t want to discuss them. The reality is, if you’re standing at the store, staring at shelf, it’s the cover that’s got to pull you in. That’s its job. The word-of-mouth, the oohing and awing over blurbs, sizzling sleeve description all come after.

PDB: Was Huey Lewis right, is it hip to be square?

Perhaps he was right. Out here in Silicon Valley we’re living a real-life revenge of the nerds.  I, unfortunately, was way too cool back then, so I’m now part of the ostracized, marginalized sect.  The calculus majors and computer labs kids are now running the world, so fire up your bong, stream your Netflix, and let go of the steering wheel. Someone else is in control.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

tom pittsFor me? My novel American Static just came out as an audiobook, it’s up there on Audible, Apple, and wherever else. 101 is out on November 5th, ask any bookstore to order it, or you can find it on line. I’ve got another book coming out in 2020 called Coldwater, but until then I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work. These babies don’t write themselves, you know.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He’s recently been called the underworld bard of the Bay.  He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, and the novellas PIGGYBACK and KNUCKLEBALL. His new novel, 101, will be released by Down & Out Books November 5th, 2018.

 

Shots Of Polski Noir by Paul D. Brazill

katarzyna BondaFor a country with such a relatively low crime rate, crime fiction is more than somewhat popular in Poland. Polish television is as cluttered with corpses as its British and US counterparts and if you walk into Empik, or any of the country’s many book shops, you immediately spot the kryminał and sensacja sections. The shelves are choc-full of police procedurals, cozies, thrillers, and their various hybrids. There are lots of books by foreign authors there, of course, especially the ubiquitous Nordic noirs. But there’s plenty of home-grown talent, too. Most of whom have yet to be translated into English – though not for long, I suspect.

Here are a few shots of Polski Noir to give you a taster:

k bondaKatarzyna Bonda is a journalist and scriptwriter whose novels have all become best-sellers in Poland. Her books include the Hubert Meyer trilogy (The Case of Nina Frank, Only the Dead Don’t Lie, The Florist), the true crime books Polish Murderesses, and An Imperfect Crime, as well as a textbook entitled The Writing Machine. However, her most successful novel series stars the female profiler Sasza Załuska: Girl at MidnightThe White Mercedes, and Lanterns. Girl at Midnight received the Audience Award at the 2015 International Crime Festival, while The White Mercedes won the 2015 Empik Bestseller Award. Foreign rights to the books have been purchased by the likes of Hodder & Stoughton and Random House.

sandra b

S. M. Borowiecky has been compared to Dan Brown, James Patterson, Paula Hawkins and Stephen King. She followed up her bestselling debut Ani Żadnej Rzeczy (Or Anything) with Która Jego Jest (Who is he?), which has also been a great success.

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Mary Sue Ann was born in a small town in Silesia. In the dark evenings she writes dark novels. Zabójcza podświadomość (The Murderous Subconscious) is a paranormal crime novel. The action takes places in Los Angeles where a serial killer targets woman who are in advanced stages of pregnancy. Real estate agent Laura Kovalsky one day receives a strange phone call that shakes her stable world. Will a little boy with paranormal abilities be able to help Laura, the police and the FBI catch the killer?

23140438_1134969006634123_107251585_nJacek Ostrowski AKA Jack Sharp is a Polish writer who specializes in dark fantasy noir with a strong gothic atmosphere.

His best known books are Posiadlosc w Portovenere (The Mansion In Portovenere), UT, Transplantacja (Transplantation) and Mezczyzna z tatuazem (The Man With The Tattoo).23158006_1134968249967532_1631462797_o

His most recent novel Ostatnia wizyta (The Very Last Visit) is based on the true story of an unsolved kidnapping that took place in communist Poland.

It shouldn’t be long before all of these authors are translated in English so keep a beady, bloodshot eye out for them.

Shots In The Dark by Paul D. Brazill

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Crime fiction is easily and readily sliced up into sub-genres, especially these days. We have the cozy, the murder- mystery, the detective story, the police procedural, the hardboiled. Or the social realism of Brit Grit, which wears its dark heart on its blood-stained sleeve like a call to arms to the dispossessed, disenfranchised and desperate.

And it’s also categorised by country too – Scandinavian crime, for example, is expected to have a very different flavour to the Italian or French variety.

Noir, though, to quote Spinetingler Magazine’s Brian Lindenmuth is ‘more like a style of fiction’. More elusive, perhaps. Like a murder glimpsed from the steamy window of a passing train.

The origins of ‘noir’ as a definition of a sharp sliver of crime fiction goes back to the mid-1940s when the French publisher Marcel Duhamel cleverly packaged American pulp fiction – from the likes of Raymond Chandler, James M Cain, Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich – in black covers, as the imprint Série noire. And since then it has also been tied like a noose to the cinematic versions of those books. Films that painted the world with light and pitch black shadows.

Ostensibly crime fiction – or skirting its razor edge – noir is a taste that’s as black and bitter as an espresso or a shot of moonshine-whisky. Noir, for me, is all about mood. And a dark mood at that because, as Otto Penzler once said, ‘noir is about losers’. For writers and fans of noir, we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the abyss between the stars.

© Paul D Brazill.

This is the introduction to the crime anthology ‘Maybe I Should Just Shot You In The Face?’

Paul D. Brazill is the author of Man of the World, Last Year’s Man, A Case Of Noir, and Kill Me Quick. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8, 10 and 11.