WATCHING THE NATIVES: RICHARD GODWIN REVIEWS CAROLE MORIN’S SPYING ON STRANGE MEN.

Impassioned and compelling, Carole Morin’s fourth novel, Spying On Strange Men (Dragon Ink Ltd) bears a prefatory quote by Zelda Fitzgerald that sets a leitmotif for the narrator and central character:

‘I’m really only myself when I am somebody else.’

In many ways this novel is about the roles people play and those hidden parts of themselves they access when the rules are broken. And the novel is about so much more.

This sentence in the novel sums up the paradox of the protagonist succinctly:

‘Vivien Lash is a girl with a future but not a past.’

Vivian Lash is a woman who has murderous intent. She has been betrayed and she wants to kill her husband.  She operates in a shadowy, surreal world of watchfulness that is punctuated by her regularly humorous observations about the characters in her drama. Morin is able to summon up so much of a character’s past in the tightest sentences:

‘Once I’d decided to murder him, he was allowed to touch me again.’

We are drawn into the plot through Vivian Lash’s perceptions that open up vistas of her personal history. Morin has written a complex, ambiguous character, a woman who is acerbic and alienated, aware and duped. Sharp, beautifully executed scenes draw the reader into a world that at first seems humorous, to one that is quite Noir.

At times surreal, always elegant, the prose offer a series of snapshots on a covert world as Vivian tries to make sense of what she is seeing. And the theme of espionage is integral, as the novel questions how much of what we take to be real can be trusted.

Vivian divides herself between husband and lover, juggling personas while confessing to the reader the things she does not say in her private life. The intimate narrative voice serves the author’s purposes extremely well, since it incorporates the voyeurism prevalent in the novel into its delivery. Vivian enlists the help of Elvis, the night porter to watch her creepy neighbour, her latest installation, as she refers to him.

Carole MorinMorin is skilled at balancing the factual with the fictional, a contemporary explorer of the blurred line between the two. As such her fictions are subversive since they challenge the complacencies inherent in straight genre fiction, and the idea that we know certain things.

‘Lies are easy to believe in but the truth sounds false.’

The novel is built on such axiomatic observations, and they build up layers of a questionable reality, one we are seduced by because  Morin’s prose style is so compelling.

The reality of Morin’s latest protagonist is she may ultimately be unable to know the things she needs to, despite her sharp mind and sharper tongue. The novel is a Noir hybrid, a cross between a classic take on the genre and far more, a surreal, headlong descent into a character’s predicament. It evokes the modern era through its realisation of the fact that we live in an age of surveillance and that inasmuch as we may watch we are all watched.

Morin manages to paint a complex character with a few brush strokes, honing in on jealousies, betrayals, passions and lies with sharp physical details. The tense atmosphere is punctuated by the narrative humour, short staccato mockeries in a drama of a domestic espionage.  There is a sense that Vivian’s need for murder is an attempt to hold onto her dignity and identity:

‘If I don’t kill him, I might be tempted to forgive him.’

And yet the nature of identity is something Morin’s fictions question and play with. The refrain ‘I will have to kill him’ runs throughout the narrative. Much of the tension is built on anticipation, while we see her character unfold. Yet in the end it may be as much about a struggle to understand, since the novel refuses to let you settle on a clear picture until the end, and even then calls the events into doubt. Obsessive need, identity tied up in the roles people play in their private dramas, the uncertain nature of reality when trust is shattered, these themes run throughout. This is an important and compelling novel since it engages themes that are so relevant they make you wince with recognition of the extent to which our lives may be the subject of scrutiny and the extent to which a clear picture of events may ultimately lie beyond our understanding. There is also much passion here, amid the nightmare, a self-lacerating awareness of the intricacies of deceit and the toxic undercurrent in some relationships, and there are passages in which Morin writes like Emily Bronte’s double, the one who says all the things she didn’t dare.

The author is famously non PC. And as such she is salutary presence in an era of sanitised taste. Literature never ought to pander to a political agenda, nor should it seek to appease an arbitrary set of moral judgements. We have in Morin a talent that cuts through contemporary pretense like a Glaswegian kiss.

This is also an extremely funny novel. And the ending is nothing short of brilliant. Morin is a highly literary writer who lacks all literary pretension. This is a novel that will keep you reading and thinking, it is a literary work stripped of all pretension, a homage to a genre that exists beyond the boundaries of genre, a psychological dig into a private drama, and a radical narrative subversion.

Richard Godwin writes dark crime fiction, among other genres. He is the author of critically acclaimed bestselling novels Apostle Rising, and Mr. Glamour.  He writes horror fiction as well as poetry and is a produced playwright. His stories have been published in over 28 anthologies, among them The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime and The Big Book Of Bizarro.

Apostle Rising, published by Black Jackal Books, is a dark work of fiction exploring the blurred line between law and lawlessness and the motivations that lead men to kill. It digs into the scarred soul of a cop in the hunt for a killer who has stepped straight from a nightmare into the waking world. The sequel is due out this year in mass market paperback.

Mr. Glamour , published by Black Jackal Books, is about a world of wealthy, beautiful people who can buy anything, except safety from the killer in their midst. It is about two scarred cops who are driven to acts of darkness by the investigation. As DCI Jackson Flare and DI Mandy Steele try to catch the killer they find themselves up against a wall of secrecy. And the killer is watching everyone.

Richard Godwin was born in London and obtained a BA and MA in English and American Literature from King’s College London, where he also lectured. He has travelled the world extensively. His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are highly popular and unusual interviews he conducts with other authors and may be found at his blog http://www.richardgodwin.net/blog . They have been compared to the Paris Review in terms of style and quality. You can find out more about him at his website http://www.richardgodwin.net/ .

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Le French Book’s Anne Trager Interviewed By Paul D. Brazill

PDB: What is Le French Book ?

The crème de la crime from France. We are very focused on bringing great mysteries and thrillers by French writers to new readers across the English-speaking world. Think a serial killer in Paris, deceit and treachery in vineyards, rolling countryside filled with hidden secrets. Think also, wine-sipping freelance spies based in the French capital, and intrigue straight out of World War II. Clearly, there are lots of good reads being published in France these days, and our motto is if we love it, we’ll translate it. Our books are direct-to-digital translations.

PDB: Who are the criminal masterminds behind Le French Book?

Le French Book is a crime of passion. Its founder Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for 27 years and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. After 25 years experience in the translation business and 15 in publishing and corporate communications, she woke up one morning compelled to drop everything and bring her vices home through the books she love to read. Her cohort in crime, Fabrice Neuman, is guilty of being French and of knowing everything there is to know about ebooks. The core team includes Ohio-based, red-pen slinging editor Amy Richards. Anne_Trager_founder_Le_French_Book_HD

PDB: Which authors are involved in Le French Book?

The list just keeps growing. We started with master French crime writer Sylvie Granotier; Epicurean book and TV series writers Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen; and Frédérique Molay, who not only is a huge bestseller, but has been called “the French Michael Connelly.” We then added seven of France’s top writers: Tatiana de Rosnay (she is the country’s most-read author worldwide), Didier Van Cauwelaert (he won the extremely prestigious Goncourt prize), Yann Queffélec (so did he), Christine Orban, Harold Cobert, Daniel Picouly and Irène Frain. And our most recent additions are David Khara, who wrote an instant bestseller that catapulted him into the ranks of France’s top thriller writers, and Bernard Besson, who has written his fair share of prizewinning thrillers, and used to head up the French intelligence services.

PDB: Which books have been published so far?

The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier, a prize-winning psychological thriller that doubles as a legal procedural. As a child, she was the only witness to a heinous crime. Now, Catherine Monsigny is an ambitious rookie attorney in Paris. Her first major felony case takes her to a peaceful village in central France where her own past comes back to haunt her. The story follows Catherine’s determined search for the truth in both her case TheParisLawyer_cover_F-2-225x300and her own life. Who can she believe? Can you ever escape your past?

Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, a classic whodunit set in French wine country, made for television in France. It is the first in the 20-book Winemaker Detective series. In this one, strange things are happening at the Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate. Who would want to target this esteemed vintner? World-renowned wine specialist turned gentleman detective Benjamin Cook and his sidekick Virgile Lanssien search the city and the vineyards for answers.

The 7th Woman by Frédérique Molay. This police procedural won one France’s most prestigious crime fiction awards and was voted Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year. There is no rest for Paris’s top criminal investigation division, La Crim’. Who is preying on women in the French capital? How can he kill again and again without leaving any clues? A serial killer is taking pleasure in a macabre ritual that leaves the police on tenterhooks. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky–a super cop with a modern-day real life, including an ex-wife, a teenage son and a budding love story, races against the clock to solve the murders as they get closer and closer to his inner circle. Will he resist the pressure?

52 Serial Shorts by Tatiana de Rosnay, Didier Van Cauwelaert, Yann Queffélec, Christine Orban, Harold Cobert, Daniel Picouly and Irène Frain. This is a collection of weird and wild seven-author short stories. You can sign up on our site to get them free in daily or weekly installments (http://bit.ly/U5HGFU), or purchase the ebooks (the first volumes are scheduled for release next week).

– In April, we’ll be releasing The Bleiberg Project. Self-pitying golden boy trader Jay Novacek is having a bad week when he finds himself thrown into a race to save the world from a horrific conspiracy straight our of the darkest hours of history. Could secret human experimentations be carried out worldwide? Can they be stopped?

– Right now, world-acclaimed translator Julie Rose is busy working on Greenland: The Thriller. The Arctic ice caps are breaking up. Europe and the East Coast of the United States brace for a tidal wave. Meanwhile, former French intelligence officer John Spencer Larivière, his karate-trained, steaming Eurasian partner Victoire, and their bisexual computer-genius sidekick Luc pick up an ordinary freelance assignment that quickly leads them into the glacial silence of the great north, where a merciless war is being waged for control of discoveries that will change the future of humanity.

PDB: Where can we find out more about Le French Book?

Find out more about us here.

Follow us on Twitter @lefrenchbook

Like us on Facebook

Sign up to receive our latest news and deals: http://eepurl.com/j5K79

PDB: Is there anything else you think we should know about Le French Book?

Well, noir was a French word 😉

Thanks Anne!

le french book 2

Paul D. Brazill is English and lives in Poland. His  writing has been translated into Italian and Polish but not French. Yet.

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Want to ink tattoos without a license? Here’s how…Youtube!

By Eve Pierce

Home Prickers: Blockheads or Rebels with a Cause?

A controversy has arisen in the Netherlands after a documentary by Vice laid bare the
growing subculture of people making their own home tattoos. The self-styled tattoo artists call themselves ‘thuisprikkers’, which roughly translates as home prickers.

The home needlers get their training from Youtube and practice on themselves. Their body art is not always pretty, and it’s not always healthy either. After-care? People can just google that themselves, can’t they?

Welcome to the very noir world of home tattoos.

Danger ink

Much-maligned by professional tattoo artists for their lack of hygiene and their lack of respect for the craftsmanship and the dedication it takes to make tattoos, the home prickers practice their art in the comfort of their living room. There seems to be little worry among professionals that they might be losing business to the underground operators without a license. Most of all, the worries circle around people’s health. As one woman testifies: “I’ve seen some horribly infected limbs; people with whole craters in their arm.“

That does sound bad.

But, in the other corner, seemingly unphased, stands the home pricker. The Vice documentary zooms in on 3 subjects living in the suburbs of Rotterdam: Erik, an unemployed garbage man who turned to home tattoos to earn a living, Karim, an artist who wants to practice his art free of rules and governmental oversight, and a gang of twenty-somethings who see tattoos as a fun way to pass an evening in the company of some cold beer and a joint.

Erik is the most serious about tattooing. He got into tattoos by accident, when his friend asked him to draw some ink on a whim. One thing led to another, and before he knew it he had stumbled onto a market of body art lovers who are looking for bargains and are not afraid to take a gamble on hygiene and quality control. He shows the camera some of his mistakes: “Look, here she moved a bit, and this is where my uncle scared me.”

Still, Erik is confident in his illegal inkpoking. “50 euro for a tattoo is simply too much money for some people. After all, making a tattoo is just drawing some lines. Anyone can do that. And I’ve got free lemonade as well.”

Do I need an art license?

Karim is coming from a different angle. “I just want to do my art,” he says. “If that includes a tattoo machine, then yeah, I will use one.”

He says he understands the professional tattoo artists who have to practice for years and accuse him and his peers of trying to skip a few steps. But for him, things are different. He doesn’t charge any money. For him, it’s about growing as an artist, making something that he can be proud of, and filling the human canvas with beauty that reflects his ideas.

Since a license to be an artist is not necessary yet, Karim does not think he is doing anything wrong.

For the gang of friends that practice home tattoos, art is obviously not an issue. As one of them puts it:”Of course there’s days when you wake up in the morning and you think: shiiiit…actually, I’ve gotten quite a lot of those. But, when I get out of the shower in the morning, I always have to laugh real hard. So that’s good then.”

The arguments they put forward for home tattoos will not convince everyone. According to one “pricker”, if you go to a shop, you have thought about your tattoo for so long that, when you finally get it, you are already sick of it. At home, you don’t have to think that hard.

Insurance issues

What happens when something does go wrong? In a licensed shop, all clients sign a contract that they are getting a tattoo out of free will. No insurance company will pay back tattoo regrets or bad drawings, but if the wound gets infected, the tattoo shop’s insurance will cover the medical expenses.

No such luck for clients of the kitchen tattooist, obviously, and with insurance fraud at an all-time high, some regular tattooists are scared those clients might want to pin the blame on them by getting another tattoo. Insurance fees would rise, as would prices for tattoos, raising the possibilty that even more people would opt to tattoo outside of the legal circuit.

Freedom to be noir

In the meantime, the discussion continues on tv and internet forums. Most people are freaked out by the frivolity and nonchalance that characterizes the home prickers. But the home tattoo movement is showing another side of a country that is at times obsessed with rules.

In a place where there is a regulation for pretty much everything, from the size of your windows to the size of your weed, some citizens are looking to regain their personal freedom. Home tattoos offer people a space to be dark, ugly, stupid or sick – in short, everything society does not want you to be, with increasing intolerance for those who still are. Media and advertising pushes us to become the perfect person, to adhere to standards they invented.

Seen from this angle, who does not have some sympathy for those crazy enough to still be different?

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What is the Noirest Gun of All Time?

Whether it’s a six-shooter or a semi-automatic handgun, noir and a gun are like a ballroom dancer and her heels. Guns can be a crucial plot element such as the Colt 1911 Pistol in the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, or a character in and of itself such as Dirty Harry’s partner in crime, the Smith & Wesson Model 29.

1) The Smith & Wesson Model 29
six-shot, double-action revolver
.44 Magnum cartridge
Carried by Homicide Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the Dirty Harry films

SW_Model_629DirtyHarry

2) Colt 1911 Pistol
.45 ACP
Carried by Private Investigator Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) in The Maltese Falcon

COLTM1911TMF_Colt1911

3) Walther PPK
7.65mm/.32 ACP
Carried by the ubiquitous James Bond

Walther_PPKskyfallppk

4) Star Model B pistol
9mm
Carried by Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) in Pulp Fiction

StarBPulpFiction

pulpfictionStarModelBpistol2###

Video of the Day: SCARLET STREET by Fritz Lang

Scarlet Street (1945) directed by Fritz Lang was based on the French novel La Chienne (The Bitch) by Georges de La Fouchardière. It had  been previously dramatized on stage by André Mouëzy-Éon, and cinematically as La Chienne (1931) by director Jean Renoir.

The principal actors Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, had earlier appeared together in The Woman in the Window (1944) also directed by Fritz Lang. The three were re-teamed for Scarlet Street. The film was later featured in an episode of Cinema Insomnia.

Lang’s science fiction film noir classic Metropolis has become a staple in the curricula of film schools. The film was based on the screenplay and novel written by his wife Thea Von Harbeau, which is available in an New Revised Edition published by VegaTrope.

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Interview with Spanish noir writer Juan Carlos Girauta

girauta_ Born in Barcelona in 1961, Juan Carlos Girauta, graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Barcelona and obtained an MBA at the ESADE Business School. Given his tendencies towards writing, he began studies towards a Doctorate in Philosophy but later abandoned it to  pursue economic and political journalism.  Currently, he writes for the Spanish newspaper ABC and serves as a political analyst on radio and television programs

Disorder (El desorden in Spanish) is Girauta’s second noir novella and the first one translated into English. Both versions, the Spanish original and the English translation, have been published by the Singapore-based Monsoon Books exclusively in e-book form. He took time away from his busy schedule to speak with Noir Nation editor, Eddie Vega.

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Interview with Juan Carlos Girauta

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

Girauta: I have always had a strong tendency towards writing. I entered the University of Barcelona to study law, but soon I realized that I would have preferred studying philosophy and literature. Nonetheless, I finished law in order to work as a lawyer, but never abandoned the possibility that I might become a writer.

girauta fingerNoir Nation: In one of your author photos, your hand seems to form what we in New York call the Bronx Cheer. Was that unintentional or were you trying to send some kind of message?

Girauta: Hahaha! I had no idea about the Bronx Cheer. It was rather a pose to break the monotony involving those photo sessions whenever you are not a model and you are not paid for those.

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

Girauta: It is about a serial killer who, clinging to the remembrance of somebody who doesn’t even exist, seeks a sense of guilt, of a remorse he is unable to feel. Meanwhile, in the first person, the main character remembers his crimes, philosophizes, identifies his elusive identity with the city of Barcelona and taunts the weird prestige that he has attained. He has roused fascination in some circles and contemplates with a kind of astonishment the theory that a journalist has developed about him. The turning point of the narrative is in Vienna, in the home of Sigmund Freud, which was turned into a museum. That’s all I can say.

Juan_Carlos_i_Montse_003Noir Nation: The book appeared in both English and Spanish. Did you collaborate with the translator, Ian Goldring? Were there things you wrote that were beyond translation?

Girauta: I don’t think there is something that can’t be translated when we are dealing with languages that are alive and have a strong literary tradition like Spanish and English. Ian’s translation is very faithful to the original and keeps the spirit of the text perfectly. I didn’t collaborate with him because I leave all those matters in the hands of my literary agent, a fellow Spaniard who lives in Singapore. My agent is an impressive fellow. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and translates from modern Greek. His Twitter handle is @Seleucus.

Noir Nation: The book uses many references to pop culture – to the actress Sharon Stone for example – but also to literary giants such as Borges. In what way did you intend the references to advance your narrative?

Girauta: My literary conscience, to use that expression, is a mixture of elements that, crystallizing in Postmodernism, allows me to incorporate references from the pop culture in which I was raised during my adolescence in the 70s, precisely when the Francoist dictatorship was agonizing in Spain. Not by chance, my beloved groups still are Genesis and, of course, The Beatles. I have tried to make my literary, musical, overall artistic, references part of the novel’s natural fabric. I hope to have attained it.

disorderNoir Nation: The cover has a minimalist approach to design. How did the cover come to be made?

Girauta: The cover was created by a graphic designer who works with my literary agent. The designer thought that a crimson blood stain would be a good idea on a red black ground. After all, the center of the story is murder and its irreversibility. Its indelible stain.

Noir Nation: What was your writing process like?

Girauta: I am not sure that I should unveil this, but let’s do it. The history in Vienna was written first. Then it occupied its place (a central place, I think) in the novel. Actually it’s logical. I think that the events at Freud’s house, when the protagonist Juan Barcelona steals the small statue, should have a special place and intensity so that the whole of the story could work.

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

Girauta: To speak the truth, I have some friends and acquaintances in the publishing industry, but not many, and even fewer who are noir writers. I was, for instance, a very good friend of Horacio Vázquez-Rial, one of the best Argentinean writers in the last three decades, but he died of cancer last year.

Noir Nation: What’s the market like for crime fiction in Spain and Latin America?

Girauta: Noir literature is much more stronger in the Anglo Saxon markets than in the Spanish-speaking ones. One reason is that many noir novels we read in Spanish are  translations from other languages, mainly English, though there have been some stunning surprises from countries like Sweden, with the works of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. There is comparatively less noir production originally written in Spanish.

Noir Nation: Is Spain embracing eBooks? Or is it clinging to print?

Girauta: The problem in Spain is that the reading index is not high. Half of Spaniards do not read, whereas in France, only 25% of the population does not read. To make matters worse, the recession has driven Spain’s unemployment rate to 26%, so the growth of the eBook market has been rather slow.

Noir Nation: Do you use online social media to create awareness of your work? If so, which platforms do you think work best? Are you likely to find readers more on some than on others?

Girauta: I have a Twitter account (@girauta) with more than 7500 followers and my literary agent administers the Facebook pages of both El desorden and Disorder. Twitter is more alive than Facebook because I decided not to open a personal account on Facebook. My work as a political analyst on radio stations and Spanish TV channels and as a columnist on the Spanish newspaper ABC takes all my time.

Noir Nation: Tell us about your literary influences.

Girauta: My basic influences belong to the Spanish Golden Age (the 16th and 17th centuries), to the Russian literature of the 19th century, to the movements of Aestheticism (Oscar Wilde) and Spanish Modernism (Ramón María del Valle-Inclán), and to the great Argentinean literature of the last century (Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Ernesto Sábato, Julio Cortázar).

Noir Nation: Is there a question you’d like me to ask that I did not ask?

Girauta: It’s been an awesome interview, and perhaps I would like to add a personal reflection: rather than a genre, the noir novel is a formidable code to trasmit to broad audiences all kind of narrtives, including the more ambitious intellectually.

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Video of the Day: DETOUR, 1945 Film Noir Classic

The star of Detour, Tom Neal, was not just a noir actor but also a real life noir criminal despite a law degree from Harvard. He was a champion boxer who broke the nose of fellow actor Francois Tone and gave him a brain concussion fighting for the attention of an actress they were both dating. Later he underwent several failed marriages, the last of which ended after he shot his wife in the back of the head with a Colt .45. Although sentenced to ten years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, he served only six, and was released in 1971. He died not not much later of a heart attack. Dead at 58. Dark in film. Dark in life.