Will Write For Shoes

Red Shoes

Don’t let a site name like “The Stiletto Gumshoe” mislead you. No, I will not write for shoes, and no, I don’t want to write a “Chick Lit” novel. I’m not even certain that anyone uses that term any longer, though the formula remains a general fiction staple, that’s clear enough.

Will Write For Shoes

Will Write For Shoes – How To Write A Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley was a library read grabbed off the shelf on a whim, and a surprisingly entertaining and informative book at that. In particular, I found it illuminating to see how a sub-category can be rigidly ruled by its formulas and templates, while enterprising writers will inevitably circumvent them, which is something on my mind right now as I work through increasingly substantial revisions on my own projects (see my prior post “Tiptoeing ‘Round The Templates”, link below).

Seattle author Cathy Yardley has several steamy looking contemporary romance novels to her credit, along with urban fantasy, traditional romance and, yes: “Chick Lit” novels, plus a couple writing how-to books. This book includes a history of the Chick Lit subcategory, an overview of the formula, writer’s tips and more. Naturally, the FAQ’s, agent and publishers directory lists are outdated, this being a book from 2007. Still, it was an interesting read, even for a noir-ish mystery writer like myself.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/02/05/tiptoeing-round-the-templates/

Do Not Disturb

do not disturb by devotchka

The sign on the hotel room doorknob may read ‘Do Not Disturb’, but I’m betting she’s going to ignore that. She could be a ‘stiletto gumshoe’, or could just be a jealous spouse or girlfriend in this nifty photo called (not surprisingly) “Do Not Disturb”, by Devotchka.

The Big Blowdown

The Big Blowdown - Richie Fahey Cover art

There’s a long list of George Pelecanos’ projects that I adore: Novels, short stories, television scripts.

But my favorite remains The Big Blowdown, his 1999 tale of two Washington DC friends (including Nick Stefanos, the Pelecanos character who’s crossed-over into more than one project) set in a post-WWII world of realistically drawn blue-collar Greek neighborhoods filled with rich renderings of everyday people who live and work alongside the small-time mobsters who really run things. Some have compared Pelecanos’ early novels to James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, and I won’t argue. They share a spare yet darkly poetic writing style and focus on a specific time, place and cast of characters. How he continues to create excellent books while concurrently working as a writer/producer for high-visibility projects like The Wire, The Pacific and The Deuce among others is beyond me. A person can only do so much. Somehow, Pelecanos does still more.

For me, this particular novel has been a kind of tutorial on how a master wordsmith handles an ethnic milieu, something I’m working with (different ethnicity, but still) in my own projects. Obviously, Pelecanos does it better than many, and better than anything I could ever hope for.

The Big Blowdown will get a careful re-read someday. I’ll just need to give it some time so I can forget the specifics and discover it all anew. As an aside, the nifty Richie Fahey cover art on my well-worn trade pb edition shown above doesn’t hurt.

Lichtspiele

Alexi Lubomirski

No one’s advocating smoking, so don’t comment with nasty remarks. Lets face it, traditional film noir or even cliched ‘noir culture’ is more or less a smoke-fest, and whatever the health hazards and general evil-ness of the addiction, smoking does make for some stunning images.

Here, Alexi Lubomirski shoots model Constance Jablonski for Vogue Germany back in 2013 for an editorial called “Lichtspiele”, a series of striking images reminiscent of 1930’s film studio backstage and glamour shots.

Alexi Lubomirski 2

Men In Danger

Howell Dodd Men In Danger magazine 1964

Men in danger? Sure, but I’m not certain which is more dangerous. The easy money for delivering a package of something that’s surely illegal? Or Miss Can’t-Keep-My-Slip-On goading him from her perch on the bed behind? A pulp (or more correctly, one of the so-called ‘mens sweats’) magazine interior illustration by Howell Dodd from a 1964 issue of Men In Danger.

Primal Spillane

Primal Spillane

Some dismiss him, some revere him, and some 1950’s-60’ literary critics actually reviled Mickey Spillane, certain that he represented the end of American arts & letters. But nearly 250 million book buyers apparently thought otherwise. I’ll proudly admit to being among the adoring faction, having read all of his novels and re-reading a couple faves more than once. Sure, some of his later work can’t hold a candle to his first few Mike Hammer novels. So what? The man’s a hard-boiled genre icon. I’m glad that Iowa mystery writer Max Allan Collins forged a relationship with Spillane in the golden age great’s latter years, assigned to sort through his papers following Spillane’s demise, and authorized to complete several of Mickey Spillane’s unfinished novels (which I’ve enjoyed as well).

Primal Spillane is a collection of ‘short-shorts’ the emerging writer penned as filler material for comics back when he was starting out before his WII service. There are over 40 short pieces here, covering a lot of ground – not Mike Hammer stories so much as adventure stories, war stories along with some crime stories. Pretty uniformly, they employ those trademark Spillane gotcha endings and make the most of ultra-short word counts, which is a lesson in economy for any writer. There’s a good intro written by Collins, and the book was compiled with the able assistance of his researcher, Lynne Meyers.

Listening To: Ellen Foley’s Night Out

Night Out

Listening to last night: Actor/singer Ellen Foley’s debut album Night Out, more pop than I’d typically have playing while working, but this one’s special. Most folks remember Foley not for her own solo projects, but as the incredible voice on Meat Loaf’s mega-selling Bat Out Of Hell album (though another singer toured with the Loaf, Foley doing a co-star stint on NBC’s sitcom Night Court).

Don’t Talk To Strangers In Cars

Gwen Stefani by Michelangelo Battista

Sound advice: Don’t approach a car idling at the curb and don’t talk to strangers. Especially a stranger leaning out of the driver’s side window who looks as menacing as singer Gwen Stefani does in this retro-styled image from fashion photographer Michelangelo Battista.

Into The Night

Into The Night - Woolrich - Block

As I understand it, Into The Night was an unfinished Cornell Woolrich novel manuscript, not only missing an ending, but the opening and some passages in the middle (which doesn’t leave very much, if you think about it). It fell to Lawrence Block to complete the novel. I know I have this book somewhere (if you ever saw my bookshelves, you’d understand) but had to rely on a search engine image for the picture above.

Time for candor, even if it gets me in trouble: I’m not the biggest Woolrich fan, and I know that’s sacrilegious in noir and crime fiction circles.

It’s been a while, so if I get the plot mixed up a little, I’ll beg your forgiveness now. In Into The Night, a woman’s failed suicide attempt goes awry, though she’s actually relieved that her gun jammed. But when she drops the weapon, it accidentally goes off anyway, the bullet shooting right through the window where it finds an unintended target, another woman merely passing by.

That’s an interesting if perhaps implausible premise. From what I’ve read, some readers didn’t care for Lawrence Block’s upbeat ending, preferring something more Woolrich-ish…i.e. dreary and downbeat. Still, this one can be an entertaining read for hardcore Woolrich buffs, if only to try to pinpoint the original manuscript’s portions and Block’s rewrites/additions.

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