A lap dance to the tune of Schubert’s Hail Mary

This is the trailer for Harper Collins’ new graphic novel based on Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War. The work combines Noir and SF elements to create a dystopian thriller set 20 years from now. What struck our interest is the inapposite use of the Ave Maria as background music. The words are as follows: Ave Maria, gratia plena… Translation: Hail Mary full of grace…

It is Schubert’s musicalization of one of Christianity’s oldest prayers, The Hail Mary, a prayer that remains deeply sacred to many believers.

At first it seemed poignant yet contemplative, as if the twisted novel’s characters need divine grace to help them get through their miserable days and nights, the kind the Blessed Mother was known to have in oversupply and eager to share with the post-Edenic world we crawl about in, fearfully unable to find the lights or a way out.

But the moment when Goth Girl is giving Unshaven Dude  a lap dance, as the words “Dominus tecum” — Translation: the Lord is with thee — hang in the air like incense, the video crosses a line that may be routinely crossed by our fellow denizens of Noir Nation, but may be a sacrilege to anyone else.

To be sure, as a new publisher of dark works that offend some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, we applaud LegPub Harper Collins in its successful effort to offend us, something we thought no longer possible.

[We also applaud the priests of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary of the Immaculate Conception (Brooklyn) for their unforgiving Latin regimen, which we hated at the time but which allowed us to spot the gap between word and image in this video without resorting to a Latin dictionary]

Warning: Dangerous Level of Name-dropping

We attended the screening of the powerful and insightful film by Kieran Turner, Jobriath A.D., at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. The movie chronicles the life of Bruce “Jobriath” Campbell, the first major rock star to die of AIDS. The film showed that behind the glitzy glam rock curtain, Jobriath lived a life of deep personal failure punctuated by a lonely and hellish death. Noir Squared.

The film is part of a growing interest in Jobriath that follows the release by Morrissey of the Lonely Planet Boy album in CD format. We had the honor of being in the company of Hayden Wayne, who served as Jobriath’s keyboardist and whose book, Jobriath: a History of Sexual Indulgence, we published under Noir Nation‘s sister imprint, Bare Knuckles Press. Also there was Hayden’s friend, the Grammy-nominated comedian and writer, Wayne Lammers, formally of Air America Radio.

After the program, Hayden introduced us to Jerry Brandt, Jobriath’s promoter and the person who discovered Carly Simon. Brandt has a raw tell-all memoir about his time in rock music and is looking for a publisher (we are now in discussions about the eBook rights). It was all very heady and very serious. But it ended on a light note when at a late dinner, Wayne Lammers discussed his upcoming show ‘Rush Limbaugh, Shut the Fat Up!’ Here is a hilarious link to one of the songs on the show. Hayden Wayne makes a cameo as the long-haired drug dealer handing out pills from the front seat of a car.

Back to Jobriath: Turner is hopeful his movie will see wide distribution in 2013. In the meantime, the actress Ann Magnuson who, along with Hayden Wayne and others, appeared in Turner’s film has a Jobriath-themed EP in the works. (We loved her in the movie Clear and Present Danger — what a beautiful and endearing smile!) More about the EP and her fascination with Jobriath is on her Kickstarter page, “The Jobriath Medley: A Glam Rock Fairy Tale.”

Hayden Wayne’s book has a decidedly unexpected approach to the Jobriath story. He is a hetero recounting what it was like to be part of the Jobriath phenomenon. Jobriath, remember, was marketed as the “The True Fairy of Rock ‘n’ Roll.'” He was the world’s first openly gay rock star.

At the screening, Kieran Turner pointed out a hard and sad truth about the gay community in the early 1970s. The community wanted to convey a macho image to run counter to the effeminate stereotype, hence the bikers with handle bar mustache look. They were aghast at Jobriath. So he was shunned by every demographic, straight and gay. Yet he created some die hard fans who saw through the glitz and the anger and appreciated the unapologetic beauty of his music celebrating BDSM. In that context, a story told from the point of view of a hetero writer adds a heightened sense of tension. Even today, this is a book that many LegPubs would be afraid to publish. But not Bare Knuckles Press. This is a book worth fighting for.

Jobraith, subject of new film and Bare Knuckles Press book

Recently, Noir Nation‘s sister imprint, Bare Knuckles Press, published a risque memoir by glam rocker Hayden Wayne concerning his time as keyboardist for Jobriath, the first openly gay rock star.

The timing seems fortuitous. A new documentary about Jobriath, Glam Rock’s Lost God, will be premiering tonight July 28 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater (starting time 10:30 pm). The filmmaker, Kieran Turner, will be there to discuss the making of the film. Some of the film’s participants, including BKP author Hayden Wayne, Jerry Brandt, and others will be there after the show to take questions about their memories of Jobriath.

Currently, Wayne’s BKP  book is the only title on Amazon or anywhere covering the Jobriath experience, particularly the period of the national and international tours that were cut short when Jobriath’s albums failed to sell — despite monumental hype — and the promoters canceled the remaining bookings.

Greater tragedy followed when Jobriath became the first internationally recognized rock star to die of AIDS. Wayne’s memoir offers a raw account that captures the rage, hope, and darkness that gave shape to Jobriath’s work — particularly his songwriting — and the choices that doomed it.

The book is available for $2.99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

8 great noir films that revolve around life insurance

Hannah Peterson of LifeInsuranceQuotes.org sent us this fun list of noir films wherein the prospects of a huge life insurance payoff motivate their dark heroes to commit murder. We do hope that Hannah is indeed a real person and that Hannah is her real name. But the list is real and so is the highly literate PDF article that discusses the plots of several movies that show detailed knowledge of insurance industry practices. The following passage was especially engaging:

How to Commit Suicide

In this passage from James M. Cain’s novel Double Indemnity, claim investigator Barton Keyes refutes his boss’s theory that Phyllis Nirdlinger’s husband committed suicide by jumping from the back of a train. Keyes relies on actuarial tables for his argument.

Mr. Norton, here’s what the actuaries have to say about suicide. You study them, you might find out something about the insurance business…. Here’s suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by locality, by seasons of the year, by time of day when committed. Here’s suicide by method of accomplishment. Here’s method of accomplishment subdivided by poisons, by firearms, by gas, by drowning, by leaps. Here’s suicide by poisons subdivided by sex, by race, by age, by time of day. Here’s suicide by poisons subdivided by cyanide, by mercury, by strychnine, by 38 other poisons, 16 of them no longer procurable at prescription pharmacies. And here—here, Mr. Norton—are leaps subdivided by leaps from high places, under wheels of moving trains, under wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from steamboats. But there’s not one case out of all these millions of cases of a leap from the rear end of a moving train. That’s just one way they don’t do it!


OK. Enough fun. Here’s Hannah’s article:

YOU PROBABLY CONSIDER life insurance, or any kind of insurance for that matter, a pretty dull topic and certainly not one worthy of a great suspense film. But consider the plots and characters that recur in several classic films, especially those from the era of film noir [The PDF]. In addition to a femme fatale and a dead body (usually the femme fatale’s schmuck of a husband), there’s almost always a clever (or sometimes not-so-clever) insurance agent among the cast, either trying to figure out who killed who or, just as often, scrambling to cover up a crime the femme fatale convinced him to commit. If the following films are any indication, crime doesn’t pay, unless the victim has an insurance policy.

  1. Double Indemnity (1944):

    In Double Indemnity, Fred MacMurray stars as an auto insurance salesman who, after becoming involved with bored housewife Barbara Stanwyck, conspires to kill her drag of a husband, Mr. Dietrichson. The film’s title refers to a clause in a life insurance policy that doubles the payout if the death of the policy holder is caused by accidental means. We know MacMurray is screwed from the beginning, since the film opens with him confessing to his crimes into a dictaphone and delivering the immortal lines: “I killed Dietrichson! Me! Walter Neff! Insurance agent, 35 years old, unmarried, no visible scars … until a while ago that is. Yeah, I killed him. I killed him for money and a woman!”

  2. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946):

    Based on the book by Herman M. Cain, who spent a year trying to sell accident insurance before turning to journalism, screenwriting, and writing novels, The Postman Always Rings Twice features a stunning Lana Turner as a (you guessed it) unhappily married wife who seduces a drifter played by Frank Chambers and convinces him to (you guessed it again) kill her husband. Of course, in the process of making Turner’s husband’s death look like an accident, things get screwed up, and not one, not two, but a total of three insurance companies end up involved in the ensuing court case.

  3. The Killers (1946):

    Despite the fact that the short story by Ernest Hemingway that The Killers is based on makes no mention of insurance, the scriptwriters chose to make the lead a brave, no-nonsense insurance investigator (played by Edmond O’Brien), who is called upon to figure out why Burt Lancaster’s character, known as “the Swede,” passively allowed himself to be executed by two killers. The backstory of “the Swede,” told through a series of flashbacks, includes committing a robbery with the help of a gangster’s moll played by the lovely Ava Gardner. Thanks to films like The Killers, investigating insurance claims must have appeared as exciting to audiences as deep sea fishing or big game hunting, which Hemingway probably found somewhat laughable.

  4. Strange Bargain (1949):

    “Hey, how was your weekend?”
    “Pretty good, boss! Thanks for asking.”
    “That’s a nice suit.”
    “Thanks! It’s one of three cheap suits I own. They’re all identical!”
    “How do you like your job? Are you liking the company?”
    “Oh, it’s swell. I love working here.”
    “Great. By the way, you’re fired.”
    “Yep. I’ve run this company into the ground! Ruined everything. Everyone is getting fired. And I’m going to blow my brains out. However, the life insurance I have won’t pay out if I commit suicide. And I’m worried about my family. So can you come by my place, say after dinner, and make sure my suicide looks like a murder?”
    “But you have so much to live for!”
    “Whatever. I’ll give you $10,000 to do it. And by the way, you’re still fired.”
    “Oh! Well, okay. I’ll do it. Even though it’s a strange bargain, what could possibly go wrong??”

  5. Roadblock (1951):

    In the rarely seen noir classic Roadblock, a hard-boiled insurance investigator (played by Charles DeGraw) falls for a brunette bombshell played by Joan Dixon and conspires to commit a crime that, in an ironic turn of events, he’s later called upon to investigate. Dixon’s character is initially a vamp, but ends up actually falling for DeGraw, even though he believes she’ll dump him for someone with a lot more money. His romantic if somewhat self-pitying scene with Dixon after breaking into her place to decorate a Christmas tree is a classic.

  6. A Life At Stake (1954):

    Obscure classic or an unintentionally hilarious parade of bad acting and even worse dialogue? Even as a so-so example of film noir, A Life At Stake does manage to put a new spin on what was, by 1954, the thoroughly regurgitated tale of an unhappy wife (played by Angela Lansbury) convincing her not-too-sharp lover (played by Keith Andes) to bump off her no-fun husband. The twist here is that Andes character, an architect and builder hired by her and her husband as part of a three-way business venture, is named in a key person insurance policy that will pay the married couple $175,000 if he dies. Read before signing is the lesson here, folks.

  7. Sleuth (1972):

    Sleuth stars the iconic Sir Laurence Olivier as an upper-class mystery writer who invites a hairdresser with working-class roots, played by Michael Caine, to his theater prop-filled home. He tells Caine, who he knows is having an affair with his wife, he’s sick of his wife and wants his help staging a burglary in his home that would leave Caine with her jewelry and Olivier with a big, fat insurance payment. And yep, given the fact this is Laurence Olivier, one of the 20th century’s greatest stage and film actors, you might not be surprised when you discover he’s setting Caine up. However, Caine’s character turns the tables on Sir Lawrence in an unexpected way.

  8. The Last Seduction (1994):

    In the 1994 film The Last Seduction, the femme fatale, played by Linda Fiorentino, frames her small-town hick lover Mike (played by Peter Berg) for murder , sprays a can of insecticide into the mouth of her drug-dealing ex-lover, and ultimately, gets away with one or two murders and plenty of cash. From the very beginning Berg’s character, who works at a small insurance company (what is it with these guys?), ignores more than a few obvious red flags for the thrill of getting it on with the white-hot Fiorentino. Her character is the smartest and meanest person in the film.

2012 Las Vegas Film Festival

A femme fatale seeking revenge, a suicidal soldier, and Saddam Hussein. What do these people have in common? They were all characters in films featured at the 2012 Las Vegas Film Festival hosted at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, July 19 – 22. This year a mix of films with international focus wooed film-lovers who were trying to find a reprieve from the 110-degree temperatures outside. Viewers were quickly transported far, far away from the sweltering Nevada desert with this year’s selection of stories and characters of China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Iraq.

I was hungry for some good old-fashioned noir, and I came away satisfied where I least expected. The following films were some of the highlights of this year’s festival.

Written and Directed by Steven R. Monroe. This violent and edgy thriller oozed noir with its revenge theme and bullet-flying special effects. The story follows Reagan Tyler, a troubled guy who ends up in the place where troubled people seem to flock—Las Vegas. It’s here where he meets the dark and dreadful Monika, a woman who is supposedly already dead. Monika is hungry for revenge on the killers of her younger sister. Check out this one’s trailer!

In Mexico
Produced by, Directed by, and Starring Ash Adams. This one was only 13 minutes in length, but it was 13 minutes of sheer genius and picked up this year’s Jury Award. The story is about a conflicted soldier fighting the demons lurking inside his mind. The plot takes place at a bar surrounded by cold alcohol and hot tempers. The script was tight and the acting was eerily real. If you have a chance to see this film, do it!

Directed by Julian Higgins. A story about a young boy named Mehdi who accidentally befriends Saddam Hussein, only to get burned by him. Now a grown man 40 years later, Mehdi has another chance meeting with Saddam. For Mehdi, revenge is tempting.

At this year’s festival, there was a panel discussion featuring Original Gangsters of Las Vegas, which included the mobster Frank Cullotta. Mr. Cullotta discussed his time as a consultant with Martin Scorsese providing him with the real mob experience during the making of Casino (which was the number one film on my Top 10 Las Vegas Noir Film list!).

My feature-length screenplay entitled “Past Due” won the Silver Ace Award at this year’s festival. The story revolves around a young woman trying to “make it” in Las Vegas only to find herself at the brink of disaster as the city slowly and methodically tricks her. I had the opportunity to speak on the screenwriters’ panel and to meet some talented filmmakers between some rolls of the dice.

Fiction books give boost to the brain

A Stanford University professor says fiction books give a boost to the brain; it’s like taking your brain for a workout at the gym.

Interesting, it has been Noir Nation‘s goal from its inception to advance the cause of international literacy through crime fiction, a popular genre. It nice to know there’s a solid theory to back up our efforts.

Read more here…

An interview with Norb Vonnegut, writer of financial thrillers


Whether it’s the tremor of a passing No. 2 subway train or the aftershock of an earthquake, no one listens more carefully to the sounds coming from Wall Street than Norb Vonnegut. As a former financial wiz, he well knows what the implications are for everyone  from goat herders in California to billionaire sailors cruising the Aegean Sea. And he puts that detailed knowledge about the dark back alleys of Wall Street into his financial thrillers, the latest of which, The Trust, received a glowing review from Janet Maslin in The New York Times.

Noir Nation editor Cortright McMeel sent him some questions about the writing life and about his new book. Below is the exchange.


Noir Nation: At what point did you know you were a writer? What was the process of discovery like?

Vonnegut: I’ve always told stories. I suppose the moment of discovery — me knowing I’m a writer — was when I left my office on Monday night, October 22, 2007. My agent called and said that St. Martin’s Press agreed to buy my debut novel, Top Producer. In fact, they offered me a two-book deal. I was almost delirious, the idea it was possible to make a living doing something I love.

Noir Nation: Why crime fiction? Why not write about travel or continental cuisine?

Vonnegut: The human element of crime is inherently more interesting than travel or cuisine.

In my first novel, Top Producer, three Grey Nurse sharks devour a money manager inside the Great Ocean tank at the New England Aquarium. Five hundred people, guests at a surprise birthday party for the money manager’s wife, watch in horror as the sharks devour him. First one strikes, then the others. It gets ugly.

Writing this scene was far more fun than describing an egg-white omelet with ham and feta cheese. I don’t care where anybody puts the parsley.

Noir Nation:  Recently, the term noir has been used very broadly. Here in the States it has become like the word martini, which many use for any drink served in a cocktail glass. Pour beer in one and it becomes a beer martini. At some point the word becomes useless. In your view, what are the elements that distinguish crime noir from other forms of crime fiction?

Author Norb Vonnegut

Vonnegut: Well, we can start with the cover art. The heavy graphics — black, sinister, foreboding — convey the feeling of a dark story inside the pages, an early hint the protagonist will be swept away by forces beyond his or her control.

Most readers love underdogs, though, and I suppose the idea of prevailing against overwhelming forces is one that reaches beyond the category of noir. The truth is, I’m not an expert on the genre. Janet Maslin of the New York Times calls my writing “money-porn beach reading.

Here’s what she wrote when she reviewed The Trust:

“Another of Mr. Vonnegut’s favorite ploys is writing about how families like the Kincaids (or, in ‘The Gods of Greenwich,’ anyone with an art collection and a 27-bathroom house) spend money. This is money-porn beach reading, after all. ‘With $10 million you fly first-class,’ he says. ‘With $50 million you fly private, NetJets or one of its competitors. With $200 million you’re wondering where to park your Citation X in Monte Carlo.’ ”

So if I’m writing money porn, do my heroes prevail against overwhelming odds? You bet.

Noir Nation: Tell us about your most recent book, The TRUST.

Vonnegut:  Kirkus Reviews does a bang-up job describing my plot. Here’s what they write:

“When Grove O’Rourke takes a call from Palmer Kincaid, his old mentor and his biggest client, he can tell that the old man is more than worried. But he doesn’t catch the next plane to Kincaid’s home in Charleston, S.C. As a result, he has to make the trip anyway for Palmer’s funeral after he’s killed in a convenient one-person boating accident. Smarting with guilt, Grove agrees to join Palmer’s daughter Claire, 33, and his second wife JoJo, 39, on the board of the Palmetto Foundation, which Palmer launched and headed. Another mistake. Katy Anders, Grove’s boss at Sachs, Kidder and Carnegie, is anything but supportive. And the very first item of business before the Foundation, a transfer of $65 million donated by the Catholic Fund to the Foundation for relief work in then Philippines, raises Grove’s hackles. He’s taken aback by dogged Fayetteville lawyer Biscuit Hughes’ revelation that the Catholic Fund owns Highly Intimate Pleasures, an adult novelty superstore, and he doesn’t trust Father Frederick Ricardo, the fast-talking Maryknoll priest who’s pressing for the transfer. Just to keep the pressure up, Grove learns that Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is poised to purchase his division at SKC and that Isabelle Torres of the FBI is dogging his every move and demanding he spill everything he knows about the Foundation. And that’s all before JoJo is kidnapped by someone demanding $200 million-virtually all the Foundation’s assets-for her safe return.”

Noir Nation: What was your writing process like?

Vonnegut: I wake up at 7:00 every morning, pad downstairs for a cup of coffee and flog myself until there are a thousand words on the page. Every so often, my dog interrupts. We disagree over who’s the boss. Ultimately, I cave and say, “Uncle.” This leads to long walks along the Narragansett beaches—where I try to keep ideas in my head.

Different question: How do I dream up my stories? I worked on Wall Street for 20+ years. Most of my fiction originates from real-life incidents that I’ve twisted into something else. For example, The Trust began with Pablo Escobar’s first cousin.

Let me explain. For years I worked at Morgan Stanley as a stockbroker. Before Google became part of our day-to-day life, my firm kept a “bad guys list.” There may have been a more formal name, but that’s what we called it in the trenches. Our compliance officers spent hours compiling the list and identifying people to avoid at all costs.

Sometime during the 90s, a man called my team — there were five of u — and told one of my partners that he wanted to open a $50 million account. “More to follow if you do a good job.”

Nobody in the brokerage business ever gets a call like that from a legitimate source. Believe me, I know. Stockbrokers chase money. Not the other way around. The prospect was roughly the same age as one of my partners, and they went to the same business school a few years apart. But they didn’t know anyone in common. Something didn’t smell right.

We submitted the man’s name to our legal department—in those days I regarded Morgan Stanley as a law firm with a very large financial subsidiary—and sure enough our $50 million prospect was on the bad guy’s list. He was Pablo Escobar’s first cousin. Needless to say, we cut off all contact.

So what does this story have to do with The Trust? My job as a stockbroker was to ask one question on behalf of my clients: What can go wrong? My team managed about $2 billion in assets for very wealthy individuals, some who maintained philanthropic foundations. The charities did plenty of good work, but they always ran on a shoestring budget. No lawyers. No compliance department. No bad guys list. It occurred to me that financial criminals would gravitate toward organizations that are vulnerable.

The Trust is a story about a savvy international criminal who infiltrates a small community foundation and hides behind the First Amendment, specifically freedom of religion. I owe this novel to my time on Wall Street. I’m spinning fact into fiction.

Noir Nation:  Do you socialize with other crime writers? If so, does it help your creativity? Or hinder it?

Vonnegut: I see crime writers several times a year, usually at a convention like Thrillerfest. But most of my friends work in financial services. It’s the industry where my stories begin.

Noir Nation: Do you use online social media to create awareness of your work? If so, which platforms do you think work best?

I’m always on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and GoodReads. The truth is, I have yet to decide which is most effective. And frankly, I’m old school when it comes to connecting with readers. There’s nothing better than meeting book clubs in person, whether it’s talking about my books or literature in general. I learn from reader opinions and find book clubs critical for my growth as an author.

But for the record, I hope you will like Norb Vonnegut Books on Facebook.

Noir Nation:  Tell us about your literary influences.

Vonnegut: Okay, I know this answer will sound trite. The truth is I love everything Earnest Hemingway wrote. I’m not a big fan of oysters. But whenever I read the following passage, I feel like driving twenty minutes to the Matunuck Oyster Bar and re-living the experience he describes below:

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

These days, I gravitate toward Southern writers. They often write about people who are gentle on the outside. But their characters are messy on the inside and live complicated lives. The mix makes for great fiction.

If you ask me, Southern jargon is a gift to the English language. Where else does anybody say, “I’m happy as a dog with two tails?” And when there’s conflict, the dialogue is like cyanide served with syrup. It’s still lethal, right?

I’ll read anything by Pat Conroy. James Lee Burke does a great job painting scenes where you can smell the magnolia, feel the damp, clingy heat, and hear the song of cicadas at night. I’m a huge fan of his Dave Robicheaux series and can’t wait to start Creole Belle.

Noir Nation:  Of the questions I did not ask, which would you most like to answer?

Vonnegut: What was the biggest challenge in writing The Trust?

Getting dispensation from our family priest was a huge hurdle. You’re probably thinking, Whoa! Where does that come from?

In The Trust there’s a 20,000 square-foot adult superstore — named Highly Intimate Pleasures — that opens up just off I-95, near exit 55 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. That store is about the worst thing that could happen to the community, where there were fifty-four churches in the surrounding area when I did my research.

The community hires Biscuit Hughes, a big, lumbering real estate attorney with a proven track record. During a tense meeting, in a room packed with angry neighbors, he tells the crowd that the “Catholic Fund” owns the adult superstore. You can imagine what happens from there and why I needed to talk things over with our family priest.

Donald J. Sobol, the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, dead at 87

Donald Sobel, creator of Encyclopedia Brown

Donald J. Sobol, the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, the clever boy detective who made bookworms of many a reluctant young reader, died on Wednesday in South Miami. He was 87. An Encyclopedia Brown story.

The cause was gastric lymphoma, his son John said.

Mr. Sobol’s books have been translated into 12 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide, according to his publisher, Penguin Young Readers Group. He continued to write every day until a month or so before his death, his son said. The 28th book in the series, “Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme,” is to be published in October.

The first Encyclopedia Brown book came out in 1963 (after being rejected by two dozen publishers, something Mr. Sobol liked to tell aspiring writers to encourage them not to lose faith in their work).

Mr. Sobol found a winning formula and stuck to it. Each book holds 10 stories, each involving a mystery that 10-year-old Leroy (Encyclopedia) Brown solves by keen observation and deduction. He notices that the culprit has his sweater on inside out, or claims to smell flowers that are fake. The rest is self-evident. The solution is not spelled out in the story; readers are challenged to figure it out for themselves — or to flip to the back for the answer, as Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “About Schmidt” does as he lies in bed, engrossed in “Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man.”