Untreed Reads has tentatively scheduled electronic release of my noir short story collection, Killer Eulogy and Other Stories for next month. In an earlier short story collection of mine, Murder Manhattan Style, every story (except one) was set in Manhattan, Kansas or Manhattan in New York. That collection included noir, humor, adventure and historical mysteries. My new collection has all noir stories, i.e. dark crime stories with hard-boiled characters and no happy endings.
Why do I write noir?
I became interested in noir at an early age. Many noir writers in the 1940s and 1950s were veterans of World War II. My father was an infantry combat veteran. Like a lot of veterans he very rarely talked about the war. When he did, he would often tell a funny story and downplay the horrors he witnessed. I wanted to have some sense of what he went through and how he felt. Noir writing and movies gave me some insights about things he was unwilling share.
One thing I like about noir is that after I write too many humorous or happy stories, composing something down, dirty and nasty is like cleaning one’s palate at a wine tasting.
Writing gives me a chance to use all of my experiences and emotions. While I have a wonderfully supportive wife, and great family and friends, I have experienced difficult times in my life.
Like just about everybody else, I have failed, I have been beaten upon, I have been fired and I have felt helpless in the grip of circumstances beyond my control. I am currently three years past my second bone marrow transplant for multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer.) I don’t recommend the experience. The only physical problem the cancer ever caused was a sore shoulder. It should have been sore since the cancer was eating away at my shoulder bone.
Chemotherapy resulted a wide range of side effects. When medication kicked in it felt like falling off a cliff; one moment I felt fine and the next I was doubled over in pain. I can now write first hand about psychotic symptoms. At first I didn’t mind the visual hallucinations, it was like watching a colorful cartoon that wasn’t really there. Later the hallucinations became gruesome and gave me vivid nightmares. Delusional thinking was painful even while I realized that I was not thinking rationally.
I have limited memories of the times right after the transplants, which is probably a good thing. I have memories of feeling happy when my sisters visited me in the hospital. I have memories of feeling sad when they left. And I have no memories of the time in between.
Writing about personal challenges, is a great way to deal with them. If you follow my writing, you’ll notice that since I started treatment for cancer, more of my characters have cancer and have to deal with chemotherapy than before I was diagnosed. I often wonder how I would have coped if I did not have the ability to write about what happened.
Do you read or write noir? Why or why not?