Blues In The Dark

Blues in The Dark

L.A. indie film producer Karissa Glover is in the final stages of a messy divorce from a B-grade action film star and needs a new place to live. Like now. Coincidence (or is it?) leads her to an old mansion in West Adams Heights, available at a ridiculously low rent. The house has remained vacant since its prior owner, Ultimate Studio’s overnight star and film noir femme fatale Blair Kendrick, was murdered in the late 1940’s.  The now forgotten star’s furniture and mementoes all remain, and Karissa soon uncovers one mystery after another, all related to Kendrick’s then-taboo relationship with an African-American jazz musician. Obsessed, Karissa begins developing a film based on the actress’ life story, attempting to solve the mysteries surrounding her death. And some mighty dangerous people definitely do not want anyone digging into Blair Kendrick’s death or the mysterious disappearance of her lover.

You’d have to turn in your ‘I-Read-Mysteries’ I.D. card if you don’t see where this one’s going. But that’s not intended as a criticism. Like a fun road trip, sometimes it’s all about the journey, not the destination. And I don’t mean that I anticipated all the twists, turns and details in Raymond Benson’s tale, only that I guessed at its ultimate resolution early on. But that just made me all the more eager to learn how we’d get there. No surprise; Benson’s a good storyteller, done here in chapters that alternate between modern day Karissa Glover’s efforts to learn more about the mysterious 1940’s star, and Blair Kendrick’s postwar Hollywood milieu, in which she tries to avoid the casting couch, falls hard for a handsome jazz pianist, and their desperate attempts to elude period prejudices, lethal studio enforcers and even the mob. Benson knows how to handle this alternating chapter structure well. His multi-book Black Stiletto series (each of which I literally gobbled up) about a 1950’s costumed vigilante employed the technique skillfully.

It bears mentioning that Blues In The Dark’s Karissa Glover is an adoptee, her birth parents unknown, only that she is of mixed racial heritage. Like maybe a beautiful blue-eyed blonde film noir actress and an African American jazz musician. Hmmm…

If you like retro Hollywood settings, a good mystery and a well-told tale, it’d be hard not to like Raymond Benson’s Blues In The Dark.

Adriana, The Femme Fatale

Adriana Lima Vogue Brazil 2013 1

A sleek black dress, heels and hose, a cigarette smoking away…and if looks could kill, then hers say murder. But it’s not a saucy scene from a retro noir in a steamy South American setting. It’s model Adriana Lima posing for Vogue Brazil in an editorial shot by Giampaolo Sgura.

Spy Story

‘Spy Story’ Shalom Harlow by Ellen Von Unwerth

If you’re foolish enough to be wandering around a dark subway tunnel, and more foolish still to approach the woman in black lurking down there, then you deserve whatever happens to you. This is Shalom Harlow by Ellen von Unwerth from a fashion editorial titled “Spy Story”.

 

Got A Light?

femme fatale by sergey bogomyakov 500 px

A gentleman ought to whip out his lighter. But what she’ll do once that cigarette’s lit is anyone’s guess. “Femme Fatale” by Sergey Bogomyakov, from 500px.

You Have Killed Me.

You Have Killed Me Cover

Cold and windy under nonstop pouring rain, last Saturday would’ve been a good day to stay indoors. But I ventured out to pick up a current events book reserved at the library (there being a current event or two to keep tabs on these days). The local public library’s a bit lean on actual books, but is well appointed with comfy reading nooks, plush seating and even a fireplace. Almost ready to check out, Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones’ You Have Killed Me caught my eye on the graphic novel section’s endcap. I have it, of course, being an ardent Jones fan. Still, I paused to flip through the 2018 trade pb edition of this 2009 graphic novel anyway. Before I knew it, I’d dropped into one of those fireside chairs to reread this yummy bit of retro noir fun from cover to cover before dashing back out into the rain.

You Have Killed Me Art

Some will holler cliché. Me? I see nothing but classic noir and hard-boiled genre tropes lovingly celebrated in Rich’s story, a smooth flowing piece of work that reads like a period-perfect screenplay for a 1940’s-50’s noir. As for Joelle Jones art? Fans might be surprised to see some softer lines and curvier faces here and there, but it’s still Joelle Jones’ brilliant, stylized draftsmanship throughout, and an excellent chance to see where she was ten years ago. The pair make an excellent team (as seen since on Lady Killer, for example) in this tale of hard luck P.I. Antonio Mercer, hired by wealthy and beautiful Jessica Roman to locate her sister Julie, who’s gone missing on the eve of her society wedding…the missing Julie also Mercer’s one-time lover. But family dramas and messy love affairs are the least of Mercer’s problems once he begins to tangle with gamblers, gangsters and hard-assed cops in jazz clubs, racetracks and roadhouses. Any savvy noir fan will smell a rat – or at least an untrustworthy femme fatale – early on, but even the savviest may not be ready for what really happened to the missing sister. Trust me: This one’s a treat.

Sure, I got soaked on my way back to my car. But I did get the political rant hardcover I’d reserved a week earlier (just to drive myself nuts) and had a good time savoring Jamie Rich’s wordsmithing and ogling Joelle Jones art, both every bit as tasty today as ten years ago when the book came out.

 

Intermission.

Giro 2018

The piano man’s taking five, so the club’s chanteuse can finally relax with a well-earned smoke, and maybe even a sigh once she’d finally set those lethal heels aside. It’s a nifty bit of noir-ish illustration by Giro. Look for more at Giroillustrator.tumblr.com

“A Dame And A Shamus”

By Tony Mangerie - Kidnapped Poster

“Yep, I’m a dame and a shamus, but I didn’t start this way…”

So begins the introduction to photographer Tony Mangerie’s 2014 film noir homage with model Ariel Arielita Fulmer, assisted by Gigi McMillan and Melissa Franklin. See all the photos for yourself, and read Mangerie’s accompanying text at the photographer’s site, tonymangerie.com.

By Tony Mangerie 1By Tony Mangerie 2By Tony Mangerie 3

Gun Crazy

Gun Crazy 1

Nothing to do with the iconic Joseph H. Lewis 1950 cult classic film noir Gun Crazy co-scripted by Dalton Trumbo for the King Brothers. These are selected images from the “Gun Crazy” series by photographer Vladimir Volf Kirilin.

Gun Crazy 3Gun Crazy 4Gun Crazy 5Gun Crazy 1-A

 

The Brighter Side of Noir?

Victor Ostrovsky 1

You get the feeling that Canadian-born author (four thrillers), former Israeli Mossad agent and artist Victor Ostrovsky just doesn’t like to paint eyes. The wide-brimmed hats this Renaissance man’s subjects favor mysteriously shield their gaze in nearly every piece.

Victor Ostrovsky 5

These paintings are an intriguing take on noir-ish tropes, replete with suitably attired gamblers, gangsters and femmes fatales populating his work, but each work done in surprisingly bright hues, night scenes notwithstanding. Look for more of the artist’s work at victorostovsky.com.

VIctor Ostrovsky 6Victor Ostrovsky 2Victor Ostrovsky 4Victor Ostovsky 7

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