RARA-AVIS: Re: how to write noir (or not)

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 03 Mar 2009

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    Don wrote:

    > Has anyone written a really good piece/book/etc. on how to write
    > noir? I have been a how-to-write-X junkie my whole life and am
    > trying to think of anything specifically like that. I guess
    > Chandler's famous essay would count, "down these mean streets" etc.,
    > though I seem to remember that's more about the P.I. tale than noir
    > per se.
    > Just curious for feedback.

    Four or five years ago, a British publisher approached me about doing such a book. I figured I'd need all the help I could get, so I dashed off a detailed history/definition/thinkpiece on noir, along with an outline that would rely heavily on advice and comments from several then-current "noir" writers and editors -- a sort of noir version of Randisi's then-new HOW TO WRITE A PRIVATE EYE NOVEL.

    The editor offered a few suggestions, we batted it around and I was given a green flag. I was even sent a mock-up cover and table of contents, based on my outline. Then the editor left for a better paying gig and his replacement couldn't have been less interested.

    But the cheque for the work I had already done cleared, so I guess I can't bitch.

    Maybe I'll dust off the outline one of these days, try to submit it somewhere else...

    But I still think anyone whoever tackles such a book is going to have to nail down the definition first. Simply calling it noir doesn't make it so.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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