Category Archives: Noir

Interview with ZOVA

Here is an interview I just did for my publisher, ZOVA Books. Enjoy.

What are some of your inspirations for writing?

Through out my life, I’ve found the greatest inspirations for my writing and characters that I feature in my writing, is real life. Many characters that I write about are people I’ve met or witnessed. I’m a people watcher. I like to sit at coffee shops and watch the people go by. Especially in Las Vegas. If I told you the things I’ve seen around the city, you wouldn’t believe it. And I don’t mean just Las Vegas Boulevard, I’m talking the out-of-the-way places. I like finding the places only the locals visit; the pool halls, dive bars, etc.

Movies are another inspiration for me. I love crime movies like Tarantino and Scorsese and classic movies. Humphrey Bogart is an inspiration. Casablanca is my all time favorite film and has a lot of noir aspects to it. I watch Casablanca at least four times a year.

Why 1948 Las Vegas?

I wanted to put the story in a classic noir setting; utilize traditional noir aspects and put them in one of my favorite places. What better place to put antiheroes, gangsters, and guns?

I’ve frequented Las Vegas since before I was even legal gambling age. The grittiness and colorful people there are a wealth of inspiration for characters and plot lines. Now that I live here, I’m hoping the well will never dry up.

One for the Road features a very specific kind of writing style. What are some of your favorite books that may or may not feature similar styles? 

I’ve been a reader since I was very young. My mother used to read Poe stories to me before bed when I was little. I get a lot of shocked and disapproving looks when I tell people that, but to this day Poe is still my all time favorite. I even dabbled in horror writing when I was younger, but they weren’t very good.

I’m way off topic. I got into noir and crime writing when I was in college. A friend of mine asked to read a short story of mine and said it reminded her of Hammett. To me, that is the greatest compliment a mystery/noir writer can receive. Dashiell Hammett wrote The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, to name two favorites. Other authors that write in this style are Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson.

What about the characters?

I love to watch people. And a lot of the time, I see people several times and never learn their names, so I end up giving them nicknames; like, Red Wagon Guy or Pig Lady. I felt it would be fun to have Johnny do the same thing. Not ‘cause he doesn’t want to learn people’s names, but because he can’t be bothered.

You’ll notice that in One for the Road, Johnny uses people’s real names rarely and when he does it is to show specific character qualities. For example, he learns Lou’s name because he grows to trust and respect him. This also comes through in their character development. He gets to know Lou and Nora because he likes them. One for the Road is written in first person, from Johnny’s point of view. If he cares about a character, I want the reader to as well.

Many of the characters are either based off of people I’ve met or archetype (or cliche) characters that are fun to play with in genre fiction. The mindless thugs, the sexy moll, the pitiless psycho.

Other characters were based on historical personalities who would’ve been involved in the mentioned activities during the time period. I did quite a bit of research before, during, and after writing the book. I wanted to make the story as authentic as possible.

Johnny Flamingo really isn’t a nice guy, is he?

I really wanted to stick to the noir standard. Antiheroes have always been my favorites because they are more true to real life. I’ve yet to meet a knight in shining armor or the personification of evil. I firmly believe everyone has a little bit of both (though in varying degrees) in many shades of grey. They are more fun to read and more fun to write.

Johnny Flamingo isn’t a bad guy, but you’re right, he is not a “nice guy.”

Johnny Flamingo is a name that your main character makes up to protect his identity. What is Johnny’s real name?

Ha! That’s probably the most asked question I get. I’m not giving that away just yet. Little is given away through the course of One for the Road, and that is the point. I plan on writing more about Johnny and giving a little bit of his back story as I go. Where he grew up. What he did during the war. What he did when he got home. Who is Danny the Dutch and what did he did to Johnny. And, of course, what Johnny’s real name is.

How do you write? What process do you find works for you?

Well, I do a lot of reading. I get an idea of the plot and start researching the time/setting of the book. I read old newspaper articles, look at photographs, and visit the places I’m writing about so I get a flavor.

After that, I start outlining. I plot out the book in scenes then see where the logical places for chapter ending/beginnings would be. Under each scene/chapter, I give a brief synopsis of what I want to say and tell during that time. I include details and specific facts I want to use as foreshadowing later.

Then I watch movies and read more. I’m writing a noir book, so I pull out all the movies and books that I classify as noir.

If there is an action scene, I watch a fast-paced movie. A hand-to-hand fist fight? I might pull out a martial arts movie. This gives me some visuals that I can work from. It also gives my writing the pacing it needs for the scenes.

After that, I start writing the chapters.

What’s next?

I’m working on a sequel to One for the Road. I won’t give too much away, but he’s in another city and gets into trouble, of course. Along the way he’s gonna meet some really great characters. Some you like and some . . . not so much.

Like I mentioned earlier, I plan to give some more of Johnny’s personal history away, so readers will get a chance to understand what makes him tick.

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One for the Road

Thoughts on Mysteries and other Genres

I’d like to take this time to discuss another popular mystery subgenre: the cozy mystery. I will admit that I do not read cozy mysteries. They have never been my thing. Anyone who has read my book, One for the Road, will notice that I do not write in this style. In fact, if there is a spectrum of mysteries, noir and cozy might be placed at opposite ends.

What I find interesting is the cat theme mystery novels. I know that Lillian Jackson Braun has made a career out of cat themed cozy mysteries, all titled The Cat Who . . . [insert verb here]. And I know that there is a huge readership for such books. I just never understood why cats have such an affinity for mysteries. As a cat owner, I love my cat, however, I don’t expect him to do anything other than sleep and eat. I can’t imagine relying on him to solve a murder. I can’t get him to move off the table most of the time. Any answers to this would be appreciated.

The cozy mystery subgenre differs from other mystery subgenres in a fews ways. They are usually light-hearted (or rather lighter than other mysteries). The main characters are seldom professional crime solvers, but rather amateur sleuths with specific specialties that help hem solve these themed-based crimes. Violence, sex, and shootout? Not here. Actually, not violent deaths are preferred in these stories, such as poisonings and accidents, where the bodies and death scenes are seldom described in detail.

Am I missing anything? Or perhaps I’m wrong in generalizing this well sought after reading phenomenon. As a writer in a genre (mystery) with such a wide range of readers and subcategories, I am intrigued by the differences in style and plot devices. Romance, for example, has several subgenres as well (i.e. paranormal, historical, contemporary, etc.). However, the writing style might be considered similar. Just the time period and characters change. A duke or rogue is swapped with a vampire or werewolf. Victorian England is exchanged with Twenty-first century New York.

Just some thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of judging writers or readers of these genres. All I know is my own understanding of these styles that I do not read. Please feel free to let me know your own thoughts.

Noir in Other Genres (or Chinatown VS Toontown)

For those of you who don’t know me, I love to watch movies, making my DVD collection huge. In fact, I’m gonna need to get some more shelves for them. They’ve begun to just get piled in front of others. I love classic movies. Bogart, Powell, Mitchum and Holden are some of my favorites, but I don’t watch just the classics. In fact, as a child I loved kids movies, which isn’t saying much. A personal favorite of mine was, and still is, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I recently dug out my copy of Who Framed Roger Rabbit to rekindle childhood fun. Now, after all these years, I have had the time to see all sorts of film classics to expand my “expertise.” After watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I noticed some shocking similarities to another one of my favorite movies, Chinatown. Granted, Chinatown is not in the same category as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but elements and ideas were taken from it to add comedic moments to one of my childhood favorites.

Similar character archetypes are used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit that allow the two movies to be easily compared to one another. For example, much like Faye Dunaway’s character, Evelyn Mulwray, in Chinatown, Jessica Rabbit holds key information to crack the case that Private Investigator Eddie Valiant is set on solving. It isn’t until almost the end of the film that the truth about the blackmail scheme comes out in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Evelyn Mulwray comes to Jake Gettes to solve her husband’s murder, but continues to keep a lot of information away from him until the end. Evelyn Mulwray and Jessica Rabbit both have the sexy, throaty voice that is the norm for noir hardboiled films, such as The Big Sleep or Maltese Falcon. I still have a thing for Lauren Bacall in the Big Sleep.

The other archetype is the private investigator. Though not a classical archetype, the P.I’s of film have a lot of the same characteristics. Hard drinking and hardboiled, the private investigator must rely only on his own skills to solve a crime, shunning the law to get the truth. Eddie Valiant is hired to take pictures of Jessica Rabbit and Toontown owner, Marvin Acme, playing “patty-cake.” After the pictures turn up as a framed motive for Roger to murder Acme, Valiant must use his own skills to uncover the deeply hidden plot. Valiant constantly has a drink in his hand and never shares his findings with the law, which is obviously corrupt. The Jake Gettes character, Jack Nicholson, has a surprisingly similar task in Chinatown. Hired to take pictures to be used in a blackmail scheme, Gettes quickly realizes that he’s played the part of a patsy. Gettes has to skirt the cops because Mr. Cross “owns the police,” according to Evelyn Mulwray. Comparing the two films, it seems Who Framed Roger Rabbit uses this P.I. archetype to parody the Gettes character from Chinatown, giving Valiant the part of the straight man opposite Roger Rabbit.

Even the Weasels in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit mirror characters in Chinatown, such as Claude and a few other hired muscle for Mr. Cross. Even the “Midget,” as Jake Gettes calls him, carries a similar switchblade as one of the Weasels.

The parallels between Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Chinatown surprises me in many ways. The basic plot of both, the private eye getting hired by someone to take pictures of infidelity, and the pictures, unbeknownst to the P.I., being used to blackmail a prominent member of society shows an almost formulaic resemblance. The murders of Hollis Mulwray (Chinatown) and Marvin Acme (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), both political figures in each of their respective worlds, send the characters into an uproar. Mulwray heads the Water Department of Los Angeles, giving him power over the water supply. Acme owns Toontown, giving him control over a major section of the entertainment business. The women in both stories, Jessica Rabbit and Evelyn Mulwray, are suspected of murder by the private eye at one point in each story. Another interesting similarity is the idea of Chinatown and Toontown. Jake Gettes used to work in Chinatown years ago, but now he doesn’t go there anymore because “bad things happen” there. This parallels Eddie Valiant’s views on Toontown. After his brother was killed there, Valiant refuses to return. Both Chinatown and Toontown are mentioned in the film but are not shown until the climaxes. Even the most minute details such as Jessica Rabbit and Mrs. Mulwray’s cars have to be considered. Not only are they similar, but they are the same make, model, and color. Chinatown opens with explicit pictures and the sounds of sobbing from a disbelieving husband. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this scene is reconstructed when Roger is viewing the pictures of Acme and his wife. The audience sees each photo one at a time as the husbands in both movies shuffles them. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the pictures become animated frame by frame as they rotate. Just like Curly in Chinatown, Roger moves over to the window blinds and grips them for support.

I find it strange to look at a childhood movie with such a critical eye. When I was a child watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the first time, I just enjoyed the cartoons with funny voices. Now, I see that the writers of the movie were working on a much more complex level. The movie targets a multigenerational audience, using the cartoons to appeal to the children while its form and structure can be dissected to mirror a classic film like Chinatown.


Hello everyone.

My name is Edgar and I am a debut noir / crime fiction writer for ZOVABooks. I am very excited to be included in their catalog and have my book available for readers everywhere. I am new to this blogging phenomenon, so be gentle.

For my first blog post, I’d like to share some ideas and thoughts I have on noir, as a genre.

I’ve always found noir a very interesting style, not only in fiction writing, but film as well. One of the key aspects of noir is the characters, namely the heroes. Noir heroes, more appropriately called protagonists are seldom heroes at all, but rather antiheroes.

This blends well with the next aspects of the genre: theme. Because the themes are usually dark and the protagonists are antiheroes, the main characters can be complex. Often times, the protagonists are good people who do bad things and the “villains” are bad people who do good things.

This multi-dimensional character structure, I feel, gives noir fiction a touch of realism. After all, how often do any of us meet completely good or bad people? The world often times is in shades of gray rather than black and white.

So, the characters are often on the wrong side of the law, if not walking a fine line trying to make their way in the world.

I suppose I have more to say, but I would love to hear what all you think.