“The Senior Sleuths” MysteriesMurder and Mayhem in a Modern Noir Style
Modern Noir Talk: Discussion and Conversation
In my modern noir stories, the hard-boiled detectives are soft-boiled sleuths whose inner shell is softer and gentler, although their outer shell is still tough. Of course, it doesn’t matter—hard-boiled or soft-boiled—they can still be nearly beaten by the bad guys. But it is always the puzzle of the mystery and putting the pieces together to solve it that matters most.
Film noir movies are from the era of the great mystery writer’s books including those by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and others. Their writing and their black and white movies influenced my writing in recent years. I was always fascinated by how the characters acted and interacted. I especially loved strong women who influenced the actions and the outcomes.
My all-time favorite was “The Thin Man,” where Nora Charles was certainly equal to Nick Charles, her charming husband. Smart, slender, attractive and rich, Nick adored her. Now what woman doesn’t want that?
The plot of “The Thin Man” was enhanced by humor, with the couple’s dog, Asta, running amok at times and oddball characters from Nick Charles’ past popping in and out. There was always a murder, or several of them, that had everyone, from police to Nick and Nora, in on the chase. In my series, “The Senior Sleuths,” Dick and Dora Zimmerman, Zero and others take on similar roles.
According to Eddie Muller, Noir Alley host on TCM, “Film noir peaked as a popular genre of film during the mid-1940’s into the 1950’s. These films gave rise to iconic antiheroes like detectives Sam Spade, Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe. Though the stories change, the mood is the same in a film noir.”
Typical film noir scenes use shadows, dark streets, neon signs, murderers and murders, plus ominous actions and characters. They take place in a city like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Muller describes the characters: “The men and women of this sinister cinematic world are driven by greed, lust, jealousy, and revenge.” So are my bad characters. Bad guys are motivated by the negative dramas in their lives and seem destined to repeat them.
I’m having a great time creating murder mysteries in a modern noir style. In the second decade of the 21stcentury, the once hard-boiled masculine detective now has a new, softer voice, and there are new heroes and antiheroes. My stories have soft-boiled sleuths. Of course, they still encounter plenty of murder and mayhem.
As for me, I grew up in an unusual, and sometimes outrageous, environment. It wouldn’t take a genius, a psychiatrist or a palm reader to figure out the geneses of my fascination with crime and criminals. In my series, “The Senior Sleuths,” Zero the Bookie is a version of my dad and several other characters are based on his associates.
As an only child, I created stories in my head with characters to keep me company. Writing became my dream, my ambition and eventually my passion. What a wealth of material there was for me to claim!
I visited my dad’s gambling hall, where a card room was hidden behind closed doors. In our kitchen at home, I saw my dad count “the take” from football and baseball bets. He was a fancy dresser and some of my friends described him as a Damon Runyon character. I wrote a story about him and my mother, in which I called her his “gun moll.”
Writing murder mysteries like “The Senior Sleuths,” is a way for me to use some of what I saw and experienced, and turn it into stories that entice and entertain readers. Believe me… I saw and heard a lot! I have been able to put these past family experiences to use. No doubt, thanks to my father, writing mysteries is in my
Level Best Books is publishing the delightfully humorous antics and serious crime-solving of “The Senior Sleuths.” Book One: Dead in Bed, Book Two: Dead in Seat 4-A, and Book Three: Dead In THAT Beach House (August 18, 2020)
Like Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man” series, Dick and Dora Zimmerman from “The Senior Sleuths” solve crimes, especially murders with a twist such as the incident when a dead body is found in an icebox with a note that says, “Contents rotten.” And, Dick and Dora Zimmerman, along with Zero the Bookie and a bunch of other characters strive for justice. Not always an easy thing to accomplish when the bad guy is just as determined to strive for injustice. But it’s fun following them!
This series is the senior version of Nick and Nora Charles, with a humorous touch, a splash of noir, cracker-jack sleuthing, unusual, captivating characters, and fascinating mysteries. —Marilyn Meredith
Author of the “Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mysteries”