Blanc is the new noir


Humphrey BogartAnother of the styles I wanted to write in – cinematic style that is – was the hard-boiled private detective story. My model of these is Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe from To Have and Have Not, very similar to the character he plays in The Maltese Falcon. Acted to perfection by Bogart, the character is basically good morally but still kind of ambivalent, laconic, gets straight to the point, wisecracking, never too worried about killing, and falls for dames but not so much that he will allow himself to be controlled by them if he realises it’s happening.

The atmosphere is defined by dark shadows with pools of light (black and white, of course) where people and things are often concealed in shadows, seen in silhouette, and lit from the side or even from underneath. They fit firmly into the semi-genre known as film noir. This is the style in which I tried to write chapter 2 of Copout, entitled Business of Blood (which is now also available as a stand-alone short story). Again, originally visualised as a film, I planned on having it filmed in black and white with the main character, Donovan Stone, dressed in the typical gumshoe fashion of a fedora, faded suit, and trenchcoat.

Fast forward to 2012 when I was rewriting Copout as a novel. I was nsure what to do with the narration that was originally going to be spoken as a voice-over in the film, but I endeavoured to write the story in such a way that the reader would feel he was watching something done in the style of these classic films. A challenge, but anyone who has done literature in school will have had to try to write in the style of a famous writer. This is not that different.

The literary inspiration for this style is the writing of Raymond Chandler. I confess I have never read any of Chandler’s work. I only know that he is identified as the originator of this kind of writing, and that To Have and Have Not was based on one of his books. So imagine my pleasure when I read part of this story to a group of my peers, and they responded by commenting how it sounded like something written by Raymond Chandler. That was an accident, but a happy one.

The makers of the film must have done a good job in translating Chandler’s work to the screen, so much so that I could re-translate the on-screen effect into a Chandler-esque literary style.

It just goes to show, what goes around comes around.

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