Showing posts with label 2006. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2006. Show all posts

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Martyn Waites, hilarious! by annie_c_2
Martyn Waites, hilarious!, a photo by annie_c_2 on Flickr.

"Love" by Martyn Waites. in London Noir, edited by Cathi Unsworth. Akashic Press. 2006.

I have been reading mostly web-based stories this week and getting frustrated by them. Here is the plot I seem to read over and over: bad guy meets bad guy. One of them gets killed.

Okay, it's a story, I guess. In fact it is the plot of "Loaded," which I reviewed here last week. But by itself, it is not enough. You have to make me care what happens, which bad guy gets killed.

There are lots of ways to make the reader care, and I will discuss this at length in a week or two at Criminal Brief.

But here is one method: give the character a shot at redemption. Whether they take it or not isn't the issue. Give them chance to redeem themselves, to fix the broken part, to take back the mistake. (Ever see the movie In Bruges? It is a sardonically funny, bloody little film, well worth seeing. All three of the main characters, two hitmen and a gang boss, find their individual redemptions in the end, turning out to be slightly better people than we - and maybe they - thought.)

Which brings us to the end of the rant and the beginning of the rave. I have never heard of Martyn Waites before but his story "Love" is one of the highlights in London Noir. The narrator is a skinhead, a racist foot soldier of a racist movement.

Fists an boots an sticks. I take. I give back double. I twist an thrash. Like swimmin in anger. I come up for air an dive back in again, lungs full....

Then I'm not swimmin. Liquid solidifies round me. An I'm part of a huge machine. A muscle an bone an blood machine. A shoutin, chantin cog in a huge hrtin machine. Arms windmillin. Boots kickin. Fueled on violence. Driven by rage.

Lost to it. No me. Just the machine. An I've never felt more alive.

Love it.

Is there a chance for redemption for this guy? Can he retrieve himself from the machine and find his own humanity?

Yes, but this being noir, the cost is extremely high. Impressive story.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


“Loaded” by Ken Bruen. London Noir, edited by Cathi Unsworth. Akashic Press. 2006.

Didn’t run across any new stories I liked this week so I went digging through older books in my collection I hadn’t read yet. Found this older Akashic noir book.

Here’s a doctorate dissertation waiting for somebody to write it: the classic noir story is an example of the hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell.
Specifically, it starts with what Campbell calls the Call to Adventure, in which an average joe runs into something extraordinary. Little girl meets talking frog. Man opens bottle, finds genie.

In the classic noir story the hero (or at least protagonist, cause noir characters ain’t generally heroic) meets a stunningly beautiful woman. From this encounter all his trouble springs.

Leroy is a smart, high-level, drug dealer. The beautiful enticement is an Irish woman named Kelly: “A woman in her late twenties, dressed in late Goth style, lots of black makeup, clothes, attitude… Her face wasn’t pretty, not even close, but it has an energy…”

Leroy is too smart to use his own dope but pretty soon he is hooked on Kelly. This being noir, things are going to end badly for somebody, maybe everybody.

This material could produce a tired, generic story, but it doesn’t because Bruen is a very good writer. He gives Leroy an attitude that keeps us reading. Here are his first words: “Blame the Irish. I always do.” Of course, Bruen is as Irish as Kelly, so who’s side is he on?

Leroy keeps his snotty attitude up right through the bitter end of the story. It’s a good read.