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Literary Glance: Noir by Christopher Moore

April 30, 2018

Titling a film noir parody Noir seems kind of lazy.  Titles are the best part of some film noir movies.  I mean, film noir titles are short: NotoriousThe Big SleepDouble IndemnityRebecca. Shadow of a Doubt.   A book title can’t get any shorter than Noir.  Except maybe It or TheIt wasn’t film noir.  I’ve never seen a book titled The.  I’m sure somebody has written it, but I haven’t seen it.  M might be the best film noir title ever because it’s only one letter.

The title Noir is just kind of obvious. It hits the reader over the head with what the book will be about.  There isn’t much subtlety in the title Noir.  Then again, the cover makes it kind of obvious too.  I guess the title doesn’t matter when you have a cover like that.  With a cover like that, the book didn’t need a title.  No title would be even shorter than a short title.

The problem with Noir, once you actually start reading it, is that it sounds more like a Christopher Moore novel than noir.  To some, that’s not a problem.  That’s not really a problem for me either, except Moore’s writing style is the opposite of noir. Noir should have short, choppy sentences with slightly tacky descriptions and short direct dialogue.  Instead, a lot of the sentences (including the dialogue) are long and meandering.

The first example is the first sentence in the book:

I did not scream when I came in the back door of Sal’s Saloon, where I work, to find Sal himself lying there on the floor of the stockroom, the color of blue ruin, fluids leaking from his various holes and puddling on the ground, including a little spot of blood by his head.

That’s not a noir sentence.  I know I’m not a noir writer, but I’ve read a few books that were turned into movies that are considered film noir, and that sentence didn’t feel like film noir.  I tried to split the sentences in a way that a hard-boiled detective author might write it:

I did not scream when I came in the back door of Sal’s Saloon.  There was Sal himself, lying there on the floor of the stockroom, the color of blue ruin, fluids leaking from his various holes and puddling on the ground, including a little spot of blood by his head.

Yes, I left out the fact that the narrator works at the saloon, but that becomes obvious without it ever being stated.

The next scene is when the femme fatale is introduced in Chapter 1:

She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes- a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and shimmy onto the barstool with her back to the door.

To me, that long sentence is a bit confusing.  Noir should be short but make the same point:

She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes.  She was a size-eight dame in a size-six dress, and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle onto the barstool with her back to the door.

I split the sentences and dropped an unnecessary prepositional phrase, and now it sounds like noir (to me) and not like an author writing a parody of noir.  Maybe everybody else disagrees with me, but I’d rather read a parody that sounds like the real thing than a parody that’s obviously written as a parody.

Maybe it’s arrogant of me to rewrite the sentences of bestselling authors, but I don’t like to point out problems without offering possible solutions.  Maybe Moore’s writing style here isn’t really a problem.  Maybe my solution just makes it worse.  Even though I tampered with the sentences, I’ll still keep reading Noir.  I like Noir, even if it doesn’t really feel like noir.

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