doublebookJames M. Cain's Double Indemnity and the Definition of Noir

Paul D. Marks debuts Vortex

Melissa Lenhardts Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery (Pre-Sale)

Stephen Campbell's interview with Lawrence Block

Clues and Red Herrings

James M. Cain's Double Indemnity and the Definition of Noir

During Paul D. Marks's recent CrimeFiction.FM interview, Steve Campbell asked the Shamus Award-winning writer to explain noir to listeners.

"To me, noir is somebody basically tripping over their own faults: somebody who has an Achilles heel, some kind of greed, or want, or desire that leads them down a dark path."

When Steve asked him for an example, I mouthed the words right along with him: Double Indemnity.

Paul's a Raymond Chandler buff. I lean a little more toward James M. Cain, but the movie Double Indemnity offers up James M. Cain's morally challenged characters, Raymond Chandler's dialogue, and Billy Wilder's German-expressionist visuals. It's as noir as you can get.

While the film Double Indemnity is the definition of film noir, James M. Cain's source material is perhaps the purest distillation of the fatal flaw noir theme in fiction.

"I knew then what I had done. I had killed a man. I had killed a man to get a woman. I had put myself in her power, so there was one person in the world that could point a a finger at me, and I would have to die. I had done all that for her, and I never want to see her again as long as I lived. That's all it takes, one drop of fear, to curdle love into hate."

I personally think that noir is a great form of escapism because while we get to make that wrong decision right along with the protagonists, and vicariously thrill to the dark places it takes them, they have to pay for it in the end. We get to walk out of the theater, or turn off the TV, or close the book, and escape their comeuppance!

In my last newsletter, I used the book Double Indemnity as one of many arguments against traditional publishing contracts that call for 100,000 words in order to produce a tome that weighs the right amount to be sold as a $26.95 hardback book. At 30,072 words, Double Indemnity seems just about right to me.

If you've seen the movie but never read the book, do yourself a favor. As an added bonus, James Naughton nails the narration on the audiobook!

vortexVortex by Paul D. Marks

Published September 1, 2015

Congratulations, Paul, on the warm reception for your new noir thriller.

Vortex shows its noir pedigree right from the start. In an updating of a classic Post-WWII noir situation, Afghanistan War veteran Zach Tanner, finds almost everything has changed back home, including the people who used to be his friends. Though he's returning to present day Los Angeles, Paul clearly remembers that these mean streets used to belong to Raymond Chandler.

He writes with great affection about his city in his SleuthSayers post "Adventures in La La Land."

Here's what readers are saying aboutVortex so far:

"The word 'Noir' brings visions to some of trench coat wearing men walking along loading docks at midnight, smoking unfiltered cigarettes. Paul D. Marks writes so much more than that. Marks writes about people. Real living and breathing people with honest to God emotions and problems, put into situations they would rather not be in. It is writing that touches each of us where we live."

"Practically every page of this taut noir/mystery is dripping with tension, compromising situations, and memorable characters. A definite page-turner…highly recommended."

"Marks specializes in crime tales about characters trapped in webs of their own design, and this is up there with his best."

I'm sold.

You can start careening down the streets of Los Angeles with Zach and his girl Jessie in Vortex by ordering your papeback or e-book copy through your favorite retailer via

While you're at the website, you can also download a free copy of his Anthony and Macavity award nominated story "Howling at the Moon."

And remember to sign up for Paul's mailing list.

Thanks to Steve for sharing his review! (5.0 out of 5 stars) Vortex is a Riveting Noir Crime Thriller.

When you write your review of Vortex and post it online, send me the link, and I'll share it here.

stillwaterStillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery by Melissa Lenhardt

Coming October 6, 2015

Congratulations Melissa on the upcoming publication of your debut novel!

Melissa's offering something special to folks who pre-order.

"To thank those who have pre-ordered STILLWATER, and to encourage those who haven't had a chance yet, I'm running a promotion from today through the first week of publication.

Email me your receipt and I will email you the link and password to a webpage that contains an annotated deleted scene of Miner giving Jack a tour of Stillwater. Annotated deleted scene? Translation, please? It's sort of like pop-up video for a movie blooper reel. Bits of the manuscript that didn't make it into the final version with footnotes about writing, characters and the town."

You can pre-order Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery and email Melissa through her website:

I'll follow-up on Stillwater closer to its publication date, but I just wanted to share this quote from one of my Facebook friends.

"Crisp and pacy writing pulls you in deep from page one, when Jack McBride strides into a crime scene and a world of trouble. Stillwater is the perfect combination of a tightly plotted tale peopled by rich, complex characters (plus one or two deliciously hateful true baddies). Slashed budgets, racial tensions, messy pasts–this small town is anything but cozy. The mystery itself is a classic puzzle, though: clever and convincing. Roll on Jack #2!"- Catriona McPherson, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity-winning author of the Edgar-nominated The Day She Died

James M. Cain on Viagra

Stephen Campbell got a chance to talk with Lawrence Block on CrimeFiction.FM about his new noir, The Girl with the Baby Blue Eyes.

I've enjoyed Lawrence Block's candor (contrarian streak?) since I read his "Crockpot Macramé" article in Writer's Digest in 1982, so I listened to this interview with great geeky pleasure.

Especially fun was the debate over whether Block could have written his current noir thirty years ago because of its explicit sexual content, dubbed by his Hard Case Crime editor as James M. Cain on Viagra (a blurb if I've ever heard one)!

Though I haven't read it yet, I agree that in 1985, a noir with explicit sexual content might have been challenging. In 1975, it would have been about the norm, in 1965, it would have been a sure-fire best-seller. In 1955, it might have been banned, which would really have helped sales! Give it a Listen!

Sidebar: for writer subscribers Steve Campbell also conducted a must-listen interview with thriller author Mark Dawson on The Author Biz. The specific topic was Facebook advertising, but my most valuable takeaway was Dawson's emphasis on staying in touch with readers through his newsletter and calls to action for his readers in the books themselves. I also appreciate his rigor in measuring the effectiveness of his promotional efforts.

Clues and Red Herrings

What can you expect in the next issue of Mysterious News on October 6?

We'll be celebrating a couple of book birthdays,and I'll try to figure out what the heck Bouchercon means.

And, as always, remember to send me your news and links to reviews.

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