A longtime aficionado of film noir, I’ve written numerous articles about the genre and its stars, and I frequently include noir titles in my Film as Lit classes for the Emeritus program of Saddleback College. So I’m more than looking forward to speaking on “Out of the Shadows: A Spotlight on Film Noir” at the July 25 meeting of Orange County Sisters in Crime. Along with discussing the genre’s history and tropes, I’ll share some of my favorite titles – classics as well as lesser-known entries.
My talk, which will begin at about 3 p.m., is the lead-in to our featured panel of authors whose works appear in the just-out anthology, Palm Springs Noir (Akashic). That panel will be led by the book’s editor, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett – who happens to be our chapter prez. They’ll get going at 4 p.m.
I look forward to setting the shadowy stage … and introducing attendees to some memorable shady dames, hard-boiled p.i.s and their pals/antagonists.
Check the chapter website at www.ocsistersincrime.org for further information.
At this month’s meeting (on April 25) of Orange County Sisters in Crime, I’ll be talking “The History of Mystery – A Brief Look at Detective Fiction Over the Years.”
Even briefly, that covers a lot of territory — so I guess I’ll have to talk fast!
Edgar Allan Poe. Anna Katharine Green (the first female author of a detective novel). Arthur Conan Doyle (daddy of Sherlock Holmes). The Golden Age crowd, including Agatha Christie. The Black Mask-ers (that is, the hard-boiled guys, who started out writing for the pulp mag, Black Mask). Books for young fans. (Nancy Drew, anyone?) Board games devoted to crime-solving crimes. (Colonel Mustard did it in the Library with the Candlestick!)
I’ve previously spoken to the O.C. Sisters about mystery and crime writing topics including “Getting Cozy with Crime,” “Hot Stuff – Crime in the Desert,” “Bright Lights, Dark Places – Crime Fiction Set in SoCal” and “Capitol Crimes.”
For this latest talk, I look forward to revealing the genre’s historic moments.
At the latest meeting (January 24) of Orange County Sisters in Crime, I gave a presentation on “Capitol Crimes” — highlighting fictional works, largely contemporaneous for their day, that reflect the changing landscape of politically-themed issues.
Hollywood’s had considerable fun mining that terrain, with films like “White House Down” and “Olympus Has Fallen” – both of which were dominated by images of the Capitol building/the White House in flames.
But for authors, it’s often the country’s highest office that’s at stake. This theme goes way back – to 1934 and a book called “The President Vanishes,” a title that sums up the plot.
Of course, real life events – the JFK assassination and the resulting (and endless) conspiracy theories surrounding his death, the Watergate scandal – have provided inspiration for myriad thrillers, many of which became best sellers, thanks to the votes of readers.
Hard to believe that I’m heading into a full year of teaching online for Saddleback College Emeritus Institute, where I’m an adjunct prof. Because of COVID, we went online at the end of March 2020 – a shock to the system of students and teachers across the entire country. With an assist from Canvas (the course management system) and the ubiquitous Zoom, both my courses (film analysis, and writing) have worked out better than I’d expected. Though I look forward to the day when I can just pop a DVD into the player of a classroom – instead of having to “book” movies available to students at home via cable and streaming services!
For the Winter Issue (#166) of Mystery Scene magazine, I examine the relationship tough guy writer James M. Cain had with Hollywood. (You can order a copy online if your local newsstand is currently non-operational due to pandemic shut-downs.) Like many leading scribes of the 1930s, Cain was lured to La-La-Land by the paychecks. As Cain himself once put it, “Don’t get the idea that writing for movies is easy money. It ain’t. But I wanted the money.” Some of his West Coast work was forgettable (including a romantic comedy about opera!), but while he was there he got the idea for his gritty novel that shook up the crime genre: “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” More than a decade later, “Postman” was made into a film, but only after screen versions of Cain’s follow-up books, “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce.” That’s a 1-2-3 punch few writers can claim.