Thursday, November 9, 2023

The Story Behind the Story: "Put Out the Lights and Cry"



By Margaret S. Hamilton


When Outcast Press announced an anthology submission call for “diner noir” stories, I was up for the challenge. I love diner lingo, red plastic booths and chrome stools, and the glass-domed cake and pie stands standing on the counter.  Diner waitresses who call me “Hon” and know my coffee and eggs preference by my second visit complete my experience.


In preparation for writing my next book, I had written a character description for Dolores Lopez, owner of the Main Street Diner in Jericho, Ohio. Dolores is a moving force behind the local women’s shelter: the diner is not only a drop-off point for women in need, but also provides job-training and employment for shelter residents. Local businesses know to refer women to the diner. The police department actively partners with the shelter.


Dolores is also a savvy businesswoman. Recognizing the need to augment the menu with fresh, nutritious choices, her cook develops recipes for soups, chicken pot pies, and quiches. Wednesday is meatloaf day, either served with mashed potatoes and gravy, or as a hot sandwich. Breakfast and lunch are her busiest times, both in-house service and take-out.


Everything I had written about Dolores as a secondary character was as heart-warming as a big pot of chili simmering on the back burner. “Noir” means dark: sex, greed, and murder.


In my story, Dolores makes a wrong choice and the situation spirals out of control. Will she ever trust her instincts again? Or will she continue to second-guess herself?


Readers and writers, do you enjoy a “noir” spin on the fiction you read and write?


“Pickup at the Main Street Diner” is in Put Out the Lights and Cry: A Diner Noir Anthology, Outcast Press, 2023. : put out the lights and cry











  1. Congratulations on dipping into the dark side of crime. Making mistakes and learning from them is what life is about, right? I have faith Dolores will learn to trust her instincts again -- and find they have been changed by this experience.

    1. Dolores is such a great character! She's become a major secondary character in my new book, hard as nails but caring, too.

  2. Sounds fabulous and congratulations!

  3. I wrote this story on an airplane a year ago, but turned it on its side, inside out, to make the noir element work.

  4. I wrote the story specifically for the anthology and was delighted that it was accepted.