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Posts tagged “Noir

Flash Fiction Friday: The Thinking Man’s Bicycle

by: Chris Meekings

It is barely coin o’clock in the morning,
and the bourbon has only just taken the taste of Pepsodent from my mouth
when she walks into my office.
She’s glass and alabaster,
with curves in all the right places,
liquorice nice.
She walks across the room, her heels clicking like a cricket on death row.
I listen.
She tells me she has a problem.
I tell her it will cost her a pretty penny,
She pulls out an ugly penny and I take that instead.
Beggars can’t be choosers, especially with the price of flutes these days.
She says her name is Gia,
which should have told me everything I needed to know about the case,
but I was broke and she was in trouble
and I’m a sucker for a dame.
I offer her a chair.
I pour a drink
even though the sun has barely spat over the horizon.
I try to split my face to hide who I am,
but it doesn’t come off,
and I end up looking like a game-show host with too much time on his hands.
I take out a ruler,
and crack it in two.
I put one half in my bourbon and stir.
Mmmmm, length.
She tells me her husband has vanished,
and her brother is in Sing Sing for a stretch
so she’s turned to me for help.
Lucky me.
Equations danced around her head,
and my abacus strikes attention.
I take her case,
and put it in the closet.
I tell her I’ll be in touch.
I’m a good guy to have around
when the chips go down and the tables go up.
A real white knight.
You shouldn’t drink hard on an empty stomach.
The bar is the kind of dive that charges you extra when the lights go down.
I go to the wood, and order a drink.
It comes with a shovel full of dirt, owl pellets and napkin to wipe the blood away.
I dip my other half of ruler in it,
and survey the scene.
The bar is dark and wearing sunglasses.
Midgets flit from table to table,
asking for green wine and molasses.
Nobody has any.
I crack an egg on the bar.
It sizzles to fried
sunny-side-up.
None of this makes the boot polish blacker,
so I ask some questions.
“How did you get here?”
“Which way to Amarillo?”
“Do you know where the Falcon is?”
The Nazis in the corner “Seig Heil”,
but no one else pays attention.
Outside the bicycle bell rings,
and De Bergerac sniffs the glue.
Of course, someone’s in the know.
I swallow my finger nails,
and wait patiently
for the case to unfold.
It doesn’t take long,
Gia knows who’s to blame,
I rip off my moustache and trench coat,
No one can say I didn’t try to get out.
The fire licks up the side of bar in salacious wafts,
and the bicycle bell rings again,
but the patrons pay it no mind.
They staple down the fire to stop it spreading.
I pull out my revolver
and point it at the drink.
It’s always the ones you suspect the least who hurt you the most.
The bourbon tries to make a break for it,
but my gun sings, and the bourbon has to listen.
It’s transfixed by the music,
distracted, it falls from the bar.
Clatter-tinkle on the floor.
Thank god, I’m wearing my galoshes.
The bicycle bell rings once more,
and I make notes on Mahatma Gandhi’s treatises.
Thank god, it was only a thinking man’s bicycle.

________

Chris Meekings lives in the city of Gloucester in the UK. If you’d ever been to Gloucester you’d understand why he sits inside and makes things up. He’s the author of the bizarro novella Elephant Vice (Eraserhead Press) and the metaphysical fantasy novel Ravens and Writing Desks (Omnium Gatherum). He is still 58 weasels in a trench coat, just looking for love.

________

Send your weird little stories to flashfictionfridaysubmissions@gmail.com.


Show Me Your Shelves: Tiffany Scandal and Michael Kazepis

Check it out, Show Me Your Shelves is featuring a couple for the first time! You know you like it. Tiffany Scandal is part of this year’s NBAS and Michael Kazepis’ debut novel is coming soon from Broken River Books. This is one talented couple. They also look cute together, just don’t let them know. Now dig the interview. It’s a good one.

Who are you two and what role do books play in your lives?

TS: I’m Tiffany Scandal. I’m a writer, Suicide Girl, and photographer. Books were my security blanket growing up. I was a weird kid with a lot of imagination and reading was my go-to for escaping reality. I remember going book shopping with my family, and getting into trouble because I would read the books they thought would last me a week on that same day. Teachers eventually started loaning me literature and by junior high, I was reading college-level material and was usually one of two kids constantly in the library.

While that’s cool to look back on, it was problematic at the time—in high school, I actually got kicked out of the honors program because my vocabulary was “too grandiose” and I was consistently given F-minuses (that shouldn’t be a real grade, right?), all because my teacher didn’t believe that a fifteen year old was capable of writing what I was turning in. No matter—books were there for me, and they didn’t care if I was a snobby little shit or not.

MK: My name is Michael Kazepis. Lately, I’ve been writing weird urban crime books. Being a military brat, fiction had always been this way to combat a loneliness that developed from moving back and forth between continents, never keeping the same people in my life. I started young with my brother’s comic books and Stars and Stripes newspapers, whatever was laying around, and it grew from there. As an adult, I’ve continued to change locations frequently, and whatever survival mechanism compelled me to escape into fiction seems like permanent function now.

What’s interesting (at least to me), considering how much I read, is that I’ve got crippling attention span issues and shouldn’t be able to. People often have to repeat things to me, even when I stare right at them, trying hard to concentrate. Most speech just drifts around me, dissipates. Notepads help a lot when I’m at work and I’ve developed an ace shorthand to keep me sharp. I’m lucky that reading has always been one constant I can lose myself in, narrow the focus a while. Never feels more centered than when I’m in the last stretches of a novel.

Did you guys put your books together when you moved into the same place? How does that work?

TS: Pretty much. Michael has severe OCD when it comes to bookshelf organization. When we recently rearranged furniture in the house, he sat on the floor for a few hours, organizing the books by genre and writer. Not all of his books are here, but if they were, I’m sure there would be lots of duplicates. Dude’s got good taste.

MK: I only brought a messenger bag full of books to Portland, but I’ve learned to prioritize between what I’m reading and what I can’t live without. Luckily for me, Tiffany came ready-made as a partner, so a fine collection was waiting when I moved in. The rest of my books are spread across three cities. It’s just easier to build anew than keep carrying it all around.

What are some of your favorites? Is there a book or books you guys disagree over? One you both really dig?

MK: No particular order—the first three Pynchon novels, HOPSCOTCH, BLOOD MERIDIAN, everything Sam Pink, AMERICAN TABLOID, THE DARK HALF, THE NIGHT GARDENER, WISE BLOOD, everything Cody Goodfellow, REVEREND AMERICA, the Gately stuff in INFINITE JEST. Cameron Pierce’s LOST IN CAT BRAIN LAND had some stories in it that made me feel. Daniel Woodrell’s BAYOU TRILOGY is meaty as fuck. I think my favorite has to be the ten or so loose pages left of my first copy of GRAVITY’S RAINBOW—I got so frustrated at that book the first time I read it that I tore it to pieces, distributing most of its pages across the Indianapolis loop. But for some reason I couldn’t shake that book out of my head, and over the years it’s become the one I revisit most.

Tiffany and I don’t disagree much on books. I suppose I don’t get Sylvia Plath, so maybe that counts. But we like Bolaño’s ANTWERP a lot. We pick books to read to each other. Recently it was ZEROVILLE by Steve Erickson. Now it’s I AM GENGHIS CUM by Violet LeVoit.

TS: My turn already? Jesus. Too many to even know where to start. Uh, EVERYTHING AND NOTHING by Borges is my absolute favorite collection of short stories.  OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS by Garcia-Marquez made me cry like a baby. HELL HOUSE, NEUROMANCER, THE SHINING, RAYUELA, THE BELL JAR, WRITTEN ON THE BODY, WISE BLOOD, the SHADOW OF THE WIND series. THE BABY JESUS BUTT PLUG was my gateway book into bizarro fiction. From there I fell in love with ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS, TRASHLAND A GO-GO, WE LIVE INSIDE YOU,  PLACENTA OF LOVE, OCEAN OF LARD, TUMOR FRUIT, HAUNT; shit by Cody Goodfellow, Brian Keene, Shane McKenzie, and J David Osborne. I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention a million more books.

Mike and I actually enjoy a lot of books together. Picking up books we’re both excited about and taking turns reading chapters/sections to each other—yeah, we’re gross. We haven’t really disagreed on books, but there have been excerpts I’ve read by Sylvia Plath and Jeanette Winterson that he didn’t seem overly impressed by. So my queer/feminist section may stay relatively untouched by him, which is funny because Michael loves hanging out with lesbians.

MK: That’s true. Lots of my friends happen to be lesbians.

Writers are divas. How do you guys deal with each other when the “writing blues” attack? How do you go about offering support?

MK: Writers are tough to be around. Most times we communicate it’s easy to just imagine actual vomit or shit seeping copiously from our mouths. I’d be afraid to hear my own conversations from a distance. Often with other writers on social media, both professional and not, I find myself wanting to type “shut the fuck up” into the comment sections. I always manage to stop myself, thankfully. But they’re also my people, so it’s love-hate. I’m sure someone feels like that about me.

One way that having a partner who’s also a writer has been beneficial is that over the past six months, she and I have supported each other when pressed with deadlines. You learn that there are some moments to provide someone with space and other moments for bridging that space. It’s also nice when we have time to proofread each other and can immediately point out oversights, shit that on its own takes days or weeks, maybe longer. There’s a scene in my upcoming book that Tiffany actually wrote for me, because I was clueless as to its execution—she was sketching out an example of what I could do with the idea and her version turned out better than what I had tried to do, so I pilfered it.

TS: Ha! Have fun trying to guess which scene that is, I guess. Michael and I are wondering which scene I might get incorrectly credited for. Now, going back to the question, writers are total divas. I was gonna write some witty banter about conversations with writers, but I like Michael’s answer better. So we’ll just go with what he says about puke and shit. As far as our relationship goes, I feel that it helps that we’re both writers. We understand each other pretty well and have been able to navigate proper support based on that. Space, pep talks, forced breaks, coffee refills, food. It’s kind of awesome. I also love that we can bounce ideas off of one another. And when we get stuck on scenes, we tackle them together. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve both thrown our hands up in defeat over a scene, and the other comes in with a calm voice, asks about set up and goals, and offers a suggestion. We both love seeing the ideas we give each other click and hearing the rapid progression of keys being hammered at immediately afterward.

Okay, so you both have books out there. Tell us about them so we can go buy them.

MK: I get bummed by certain aspects of the writing industry, particularly salesmanship. I was explaining this to David Osborne, who’s publishing me, and he said “Well, tough shit. Go sell your book.” So in as few words as possible—LONG LOST DOG OF IT is Mediterranean neo-noir—an homeless detective in a strange city, a mob enforcer whose last job leaves a witness, an expatriate intent on murdering her unfaithful girlfriend, an assassin with a striking resemblance to the 35th President of the United States. Overlapping lives, etc. I like the logline for Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE, “a woman in trouble”—this is like that: some people in trouble.

THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING is bizarro horror. A love story at the end of the world. Everything falling apart in the literal way. Dresden and Isobel get separated right around the time things go to shit. Lots of memorable scenes: the ark, the aquarium, the infinite room, the ending. Real simple conflict: Will they find each other again? The situation says, Outlook Not Good. It’s part Y: THE LAST MAN, part ANGEL DUST APOCALYPSE. Deathly bleak at times too, but with a real sense of humor about it.

TS:Uh, they’re awesome! My book, THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING, is an apocalyptic love story where two lovers are fighting impossible odds to find each other before the world physically disintegrates into nothing. It’s violent, gory, kind of funny, and heartfelt. People other than my own family seem to really like it. It’s available now through Eraserhead Press in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

Michael wrote a punk-as-fuck crime noir book. LONG LOST DOG OF IT feels like what you’d get if maybe David Lynch directed a Bikini Kill video, but with badass action scenes. The imagery in this book is both haunting and boner-inducing. It’ll be out on both paperback and Kindle through Broken River Books on February 1.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


Thirsty Thursday: Back in Black

by Ross E. Lockhart

Black. The most achromatic of colors. Black is the color of objects that refuse to reflect light in the visual spectrum (or, if you’re a Nina Simone fan, “the color of my true Love’s hair”). The word black comes from the Old English “blæc” (meaning “black, dark”, or “ink”). Most of my T-shirts are black (and I’m willing to bet most of yours are as well). The French word for black is noir, which in turn names the genre of dark detective and dangerous dame novels, stories, and films that began to be published and produced beginning in the late 1920s. Some folks like black metal, whereas for others, it’s not so black and white. Back in Black, on the other hand, is the 1980 album by Australian rockers AC/DC, their first without singer Bon Scott, and the third best selling album of all time.

With that in mind, tonight I’m having a can of 21st Amendment Brewery’s Back in Black, a black IPA “Inspired by Paul Revere’s midnight ride,” and “brewed with rich dark malts” promising 65 IBUs and 6.8% alc./vol., and featuring an image of the famous Boston silversmith and militiaman (and Beastie Boys song title) on its label. I’m still a little on the fence with regards to canned beer, but 21st Amendment seem to do canned beer right, so in this case I’ll look past my bottle snobbery and enjoy a crisp, cold one.

Back in Black pours deep mahogany — almost, but not quite, black — with a huge, dense tan head that leaves behind scattered striated lacing. Malt, roasted grain, coffee, and chocolate on the nose, with undertones of pine and citrus hops. Taste follows scent: sweet, bittersweet chocolate malts and bitter hops dominate, with touches of orange, copper, and smokey roast coffee. Creamy, porter-like texture, with moderate carbonation. Velvet-smooth, mellow, and robust, with a dry, bitter, hoppy finish that leaves you wanting more.

The smokey, bitter flavors put me in mind of literary noir, so here are a few recommended pairings:

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – The essential noir novel. A dying millionaire hires private dick Philip Marlowe (not to be confused with Spike Marlowe) to go digging. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the things he uncovers. Plus, Chandler wore gloves while he typed, so you know there’s some serious strangeness below the surface.

Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective by Garrett Cook – If Philip Marlowe’s world included furries and plushies, and he was a three-foot-high bundle of fluff, you’d have Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective. Inspired Bizarro noir.

Necropolis by Michael Dempsey – NYPD detective Paul Donner is shot and killed in a seemingly random crime. Fifty years later, he’s back, courtesy of the shift, a strange plague that re-activates DNA, creating a new underclass of reborn citizens. In this retro-future world, Paul Donner must solve his own murder. Highly recommended.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett – A personal favorite, as the Continental Op tracks down the murder of the last honest man in Poisonville, a run-down company town controlled by rival gangs. Uncompromisingly dark, cynical, and violent, Red Harvest showcases the noir heart of Americana like no other.

The Orphan Palace by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. – Strange, experimental, and twisted, Joe Pulver’s killer-on-the-road novel The Orphan Palace is noir through the lens of Lovecraft, Ligotti, Poe, and Jodorowsky.

Ross E. Lockhart is the managing editor of Night Shade Books. A lifelong fan of supernatural, fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, he holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA). He lives in an old church in Petaluma, CA, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and a small, ravenous dog that he believes may be one of the Elder Gods. In 2011, he edited the acclaimed anthology The Book of Cthulhu. Visit him online at www.haresrocklots.com.


Naked Noir: A Review and Reflection on Laura Lee Bahr’s Haunt and Bizarro Noir

by Garrett Cook

When you put a trenchcoat and fedora on a character, it does something to who they are. They’re a detective, they’re a gangster, they’re a loner. These trappings change your perceptions of a person, of what they do and what they’ll get into. It’s a shortcut, maybe a shallow visual cue. I poke fun at this and examine this at the same time in my book Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective, a book that’s about whether we are what we look like or what body we’re in or what clothes we wear or even, in the case of fictional characters, which ones they’re dressed in. Sometimes that’s the only indication of a genre we have. A lot of the time genre itself is just a costume we slap on a piece of fiction.

Laura Lee Bahr’s Haunt is a Bizarro novel and a noir underneath its clothes, but something really interesting is going on, something you don’t see that often in crime fiction. While Haunt features a private dick, a femme fatale and a man obsessed who must confront his dark side, she doesn’t use these as a veneer. It’s noir whose trappings are what they are, whose strangeness is unabashedly what it is, pervading the architecture of the book and the voice of its narrators. It’s surreal, it’s transgressive and its more strange than it is anything else, but its strangeness and its noir-ness become one in ways you seldom see.

This is a traitorous whore of a book, a femme fatale that puts Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Joan Bennett to shame. It switches protagonists. It switches storylines. It’s not just the basic vicissitudes of plot or the revelation of facts. It outright turns on you. It’s turned on its author it seems. Bahr has blended fiction and lying. You are, like the book’s heroes part of its intrigues and the author might well be too. Noir is about shadows and identity schemes and broken confidences and people facing up to their dark sides. This is Bizarro noir that isn’t wearing a trench coat or anything at all.

Haunt is a book that doesn’t require a lot of violence, a lot of detective work, gangsters or grit. The violence occurs at the emotional and narrative level. It hurts the brain and it hurts the heart of the protagonist and the reader alike who have become one. I’m reminded of Frank Zappa’s statement “I don’t  do drugs. I am drugs.” It’s made of hurt and enigmas. Which is an impressive feat to say the least.

Bizarro noir is already a fine tradition. It comes out of a fine cinematic tradition, films like Mark Damon’s The Seventh Victim, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet  and Alex Proyas’ Dark City. Jordan Krall’s books alone are enough to validate the subgenre, but others came before it and more will come after it.  Haunt fits in with these films and with this tradition and reminds us why the two go together. Bizarro and noir are both at some level about reality being unreliable. They  both involve emotions and ideas becoming realities and changing
the physics of one’s universe. Naked, proud, honest weird noir Haunt reveals these connections and uses them the best they can be used.

________________
Garrett Cook is the author of Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective and Archelon Ranch

Laura Lee Bahr’s HAUNT is available on amazon now!