Tom Kromer: Forgotten Depression Era Writers

CaptureTom Kromer wrote one novel (Waiting For Nothing) and several stories and reviews about depression era life. Considered a proletarian or working-class writer his prose took on that Hard-Boiled stance of the tough-guy façade, and yet underneath was a man who felt more than other men the dark portent of his country’s nightmare of poverty and degradation as a vagabond and hobo wandering from city to city in search of jobs and food.

I’ve been rereading a selection that includes his only novel (Waiting For Nothing), and a few stories and reviews. The novel depicts with searing realism life on the bum in the 1930s and, with greater detachment, the powerless frustration of working-class people often too locked in to know their predicament. Waiting for Nothing, Kromer’s only completed novel, is largely autobiographical and was written at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in California. It tells the story of one man drifting through America, east coast to west, main stem to side street, endlessly searching for “three hots and a flop”―food and a place to sleep. Kromer scans, in first-person voice, the scattered events, the stultifying sameness, of “life on the vag”―the encounters with cops, the window panes that separate hunger and a “feed,” the bartering with prostitutes and homosexuals.

You get a taste of his style from the opening paragraph of Waiting For Nothing:

IT is NIGHT. I am walking along this dark street, when my foot hits a stick. I reach down and pick it up. I finger it. It is a good stick, a heavy stick. One sock from it would lay a man out. It wouldn’t kill him, but it would lay him out. I plan. Hit him where the crease is in his hat, hard, I tell myself, but not too hard. I do not want his head to hit the concrete. It might kill him. I do not want to kill him. I will catch him as he falls. I can frisk him in a minute. I will pull him over in the shadows and walk off. I will not run. I will walk.

I turn down a side street. This is a better street. There are fewer houses along this street. There are large trees on both sides of it. I crouch behind one of these. It is dark here. The shadows hide me. I wait. Five, ten minutes, I wait. Then under an arc light a block away a man comes walking. He is a well-dressed man. I can tell even from that distance. I have good eyes. This guy will be in the dough. He walks with his head up and a jaunty step. A stiff does not walk like that. A stiff shuffles with tired feet, his head huddled in his coat collar. This guy is in the dough. I can tell that. I clutch my stick tighter. I notice that I am calm. I am not scared. I am calm. In the crease of his hat, I tell myself. Not too hard. Just hard enough. On he comes. I slink farther back in the shadows. I press closer against this tree. I hear his footsteps thud on the concrete walk. I raise my arm high. I must swing hard. I poise myself. He crosses in front of me. Now is my chance. Bring it down hard, I tell myself, but not too hard. He is under my arm. He is right under my arm, but my stick does not come down. Something has happened to me. I am sick in the stomach. I have lost my nerve. Christ, I have lost my nerve. I am shaking all over. Sweat stands out on my forehead. I can feel the clamminess of it in the cold, damp night. This will not do. This will not do. I’ve got to get me something to eat. I am starved.

Like many others who traveled the rails, worked odd-jobs, went hungry, did what they had to do to survive, Tom’s novel chronicles this dark period of desperation. As I think about the future, of the broken promises of our leaders, of the way the world is heading into a dark time again I return to the men and women who wrote of despair and noirish necessity in other eras of poverty and degradation. Tom’s work doesn’t pull any strings, it doesn’t put a rosy tint of the world, but rather puts it out there as he lived it and saw it under little illusion. Maybe we need such works to remind us what may one day be upon us sooner than we’d like.

Kromer himself came from a classic proletarian background; his family life is similar to that of Larry Donovan, the proletarian hero of Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited. Yet Kromer’s ideas are essentially apolitical. His narrator has dropped below the worker class to the lumpenproletariat, the horrifying world of stiffs and bos. The book, however, does have its leftist spokesmen—Karl, a writer, and Werner, an artist. Because their work captures the pain and suffering of life on the stem, it is unacceptable to the general public.

Cut off from any feeling of connection with the masses and relying instead on his individual know-how to survive, the narrator rejects this vision of a better future: “I am tired of such talk as this. You can stop a revolution of stiffs with a sack of toppin’s. I have seen one bull kick a hundred stiffs off a drag. When a stiff’s gut is empty, he hasn’t got the guts to start anything. When his gut is full, he just doesn’t see any use in raising hell.” Kromer has captured perfectly the whining, whipped-dog tone of the down-and-out vagrant. These stiffs are no threat to property or the social order; they have no politics, no ideology. All they care about is a decent feed and place to sleep.

As James West III states,

We must be careful to distinguish between Tom Kromer, the author of Waiting for Nothing, and “Kromer the narrator of the book. In the act of writing this account, author Tom Kromer betrays his hope that the inhuman situation he describes can be corrected. His book functions, on its most obvious level, as an account of life in extremis. Kromer seems to believe that once people are shown degradation and injustice, they will do something to help. It is also important to draw a distinction between “Kromer,” the narrator, and the majority of the vagrants he encounters. In Waiting for Nothing we see this narrator’s strong fellow feeling prevent him from bludgeoning an innocent passerby, from robbing a bank, and even from performing the “dummy chunker,” a scam that preys only on people’s feelings. The narrator has chosen to show us incidents where he has, in a sense, failed. By emphasizing these failures, Tom Kromer has transformed what could have been a documentary of skid-row life into an artistic creation that traces a personal struggle to preserve human virtues and emotions in the face of a brutal and dehumanizing reality. (284)


You can find Waiting For Nothing and Other Stories: here…

Rereading all of David Goodis of late…

“You know me. Guys like me come a dime a dozen. No fire. No backbone. Dead weight waiting to be pulled around and taken to places where we want to go but can’t go alone. Because we’re afraid to go alone. Because we’re afraid to be alone. Because we can’t face people and we can’t talk to people. Because we don’t know how. Because we can’t handle life and don’t know the first thing about taking a bite out of life. Because we’re afraid and we don’t know what we’re afraid of and still we’re afraid. Guys like me.”
― David Goodis, Dark Passage

Rereading all of David Goodis of late has been a worthwhile exercise. Goodis for the most part has one nightmare that pervades every story he ever wrote: something is wrong with the world; it’s out of kilt, malevolent, and will in the end take us all down that dark road into an abyss from which there is no reprieve; no salvation or redemption. Some of his protagonists pursue this nightmare every which way with a courage of hopelessness that they just might evade this dark truth long enough to enjoy life if only for a day, a month, a year; or, at best a temporary stay of execution. His works were of the working class outsiders, the women and men who were under no illusion that they might ever crawl out of their mean streets and into some grand illusion of fame and riches. For these the American Dream of rags to riches was more of a rage to murder and annihilation. No, even his criminals knew that much; knew that fate (whatever you want to term it) was bent against them; and, yet, like doomed lovers dancing on a summer night in quest of an impossible prize they knew in the back of their minds that all that would come their way was a choice: die willingly, or allow the decay of life to erode what little sanity was left to the point one could no longer make even that choice.

Bleak? Pessimistic? Fatalist? Maybe. Or maybe just seeing too much, too long, too well.

David Goodis: Black Friday

 

Black Friday by David Goodis is one of those sleepers that very few probably read anymore unless you’re into his works, but to me it gives you that sardonic wit and humor in the character of Hart that just seems to hit me every time I read it. A sort of punch in the kisser that says: “Yea, you’re fucked. So? What of it? Get on, boy; it’s not the worst thing that could happen. There’s much worse… if you know what I mean.” Fatalism – or, comic fatalism; there is a difference. Fatalism is a resigned passive acceptance of doom; comic fatalism is an active participation it it’s dark futurial madness and delirium; knowing the necessity of each moment’s dark portent is a contingent act in the event.

Caught in the movement of necessity one either resists and fails; or, one actively pursues the doom ridden joy of its dark pain as if in pushing it to its limits one might fail and fail better. It’s the turn that says “Stay down, boy, you’ve had enough.” And, you get up, just because that’s who and what you are; undefeated to the end you’re neither a heroic pessimist, nor one of those decadent pity mongers; rather you’re just a creature who – neither stoic nor cynic, meets the eye of death with equanimity and absolute indifference that is not mere asceticism, but is the power and force of a being who has seen into the darkness – and seen it looking back.

“Black Friday” is the epitome of this, following a man on the lam who washes up in Philadelphia without a dollar on him and the cops closing in. The early stages are quite engaging, as Hank drifts around the freezing streets and has to steal an overcoat. But in one of those circumstantial devices that the reader has to roll with, he stumbles across a man who’s just been shot and has $10,000 in his wallet. This brings Hank into the orbit of a gang of burglars, whose safe house proves a good place for him to hide out. But of course, the confined quarters make the hoods cranky and quarrelsome, and the menace of violence lurks under the surface of their communal meals and nightly poker games. Hart’s sardonicism as a self-defense is edgy, but often titters on the ridiculous as it backfires and intensifies the insanity.

Like most of his works there is the twisted movement of his women, too. In this one the stock stereotype of the Madonna and Whore rotate between the two women in the house who after a time fall for Hart and begin that slow dive down into the abyss which is Goodis’s trademark. Doom ridden and eager all of Goodis’s characters move to the beat of some malevolent puppet master whose strings are none other than the dark secret of human consciousness itself; the blind necessity of knowing and being known by the dark force at the heart of existence: what Nietzsche in a better moment would term: “The dark laughter of the gods!”


Buy it here!

Fate and Freedom

…freedom can exist only if there is no there is. But who is the one saying this, if there is no philosophy and never will be?

—Frank Ruda,. Abolishing Freedom: A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism

For the past few months I’ve reserved Wednesdays for Noirish crime fiction. Rereading the classics and here and there some of the newer Grit Lit or Country Noir. Today was taking notes again on one of my favs, David Goodis. Dark Passage is one of those perfect pieces that no matter how you might try will never be reduplicated. Goodis had a sense of pacing, a way of presenting even the most contrived situations as if they were natural; fatal. In a Goodis story fatalism pervades every aspect of the ongoing paranoia that drives the characters. Yet, even as you watch the whole fatal accord play out there’s this sense in Goodis of this longing to overcome the fatality of being tragically isolated and alone in a universe of pain and suffering. It’s not some superficial yearning or hope for something better, but a deep need to find one other creature who understands and accepts you without some moral or religious bullshit hanging around the edges of a relationship. Continue reading

How the Dead Live

Robert William Arthur Cook (12 June 1931 – 30 July 1994), better known since the 1980s by his pen name Derek Raymond, wrote a series of novels about a lonely cop on the beat, a sergeant at London Metropolitan Police’s Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14. The quote below is from the third book in that series, a quote that has sunk down in for many years:

As I stood there I suddenly felt afraid – not of what confronted me but in a general way. I thought and felt that the secret of existence was perhaps to get old with beauty, ironically, coming closer and closer to you as you aged; innocence, everything that you had rejected or ignored as a young man, entering you like music all the time until in the end there was no more time. Then much of what had seemed so hard would be over, after too much work in cities, after patrolling too many streets for too long, after studying too many faces with the sly, fixed look of the dead.

Intelligence is at the service of us all and I believe that curiosity and investigation, like a chicken’s beak, are intended to kill the viper that threatens an egg. Powerful curiosity is the source of all detection and is surely its own end, a field cleared and well ploughed – but it is too simple for us only to have justice and logic; what use are either without mercy? The eternal cycle, the beginning, middle and end of a human being, the incomprehensible dance in the magic of our own theatre will continue for ever. But ignorance of our birth and death makes us largely mad; the majority of us clap at our disasters as though they were a play; but it is a work that we cannot possibly understand. Throughout our obscure race in life our entire frame is intended, is inclined to return to the earth on which our parents lay flat to conceive us; from a great distance our planet is an extraordinary sight, more so than most of us can yet understand, and I think that in the meantime we ought to be very careful about how we treat the flesh that we are.


  1. Raymond, Derek, How the Dead Live (Factory 3) (pp. 149-150). Random House Inc Clients. Kindle Edition.

Gritty Low-Life’s Are Fine By Me: On Reading Tom Leins’s Boneyard Dogs

Just when you think you have seen it all, Paignton coughs up another harrowing has-been to haunt you.

—PI Joe Rey, Boneyard Dogs

When it comes down to it I’ve always felt a deep-seated rapport with hell.  I’ve spent the last thirty years pretending to be something I’m not: an intellectual, a philosopher. Right, what a crock. Maybe it’s old age catching up with me, or just the truth hounding me like some old junkyard dog outta hell. Either way I’ve come to the conclusion I’m just a displaced country boy whose life’s reckonings have more to do with the mean streets than main street, a world pulped by the low-life’s and losers, working class victims of a world that has passed us by and left us on the junk heap of time’s ravages.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always had a hard cold heart for pulp fiction, the nitty-gritty down and dirty  kind that digs straight down to the bone, opens up wounds in the soul so wide it feeds on your dark stained life without a blink, cutting to the marrow for the meat that makes even a sin eater’s life look like a saint in comparison. Hell, I remember sneaking some of my dad’s old magazines like True Stories, True Detective, and so many others; and, then came the paperback’s of Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Cornell Woolrich, Mickey Spillane, Gil Brewer, Bill McGivern, Lionel White; not to leave out all those infamous PI’s Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Paul Pine, and Mike Hammer, etc. But I think one of my favorites was always Charles Williford’s low-life crime stories, and Jim Thompsons psychopathic deputies.

Something of these pulp writers worlds rubbed off on me early on: the paranoia, the psychopathy of our country with all its murderous violence and charm. It was as if the life presented down at the my local church or in our high literature enclaves of the New Yorker were just a white-washed job, a sweet lie against the truth of our cross-stained sinful lives lived as they were in the dark back streets of small town America rather than in the big city worlds of some dreamland U.S.A.. These books taught me that there is a secret history of American that is for the most part swept under the carpet of decency and moral turpitude, a realm of mayhem and madness where creepy-crawly murderous rage and violence haunt our roadways. A place of nightmare and cold stone killers, a dark world of pain and sorrow where real peoples lives bend and twist under the pressure of lives gone wrong under the bitter malaise of our country’s fall into economic hell.

Even now that world is still with us, and there are some powerful writers carrying on that grand tradition of close to the bone, where dark and gritty tales of pulped lives still wander the lonely wastelands of our nightmare cities and villages. American hasn’t been that nice to a lot of her children, hasn’t allowed them to share in that promised land of riches and fame, but has instead dropped us into those black holes of sin where we live out our lives in the gutter full of alcohol, drugs, and false memories; victims not of society but of a despair so murderous in intent that violence becomes the only form of redemption through sin one has left. And, yet, in the pages of these old thumbed pulp noirs we manage to find if not salvation then at least the dark grit that speaks to us of others like ourselves who have fallen into bad times, been drawn down into the heart of darkness where fear and terror are but the mirrored lens of those night lands we inhabit day by day.

Tom Leins – Boneyard Dogs

One such writer is Tom Leins who’s learned a trick or two about this dark seedy world, created a realm by the sea where the cold cruel mean streets carve bloody inroads into our hearts with his pungent mix of sin and death. Tom’s Paignton noir series with the down and dirty PI Joe Rey spawns the kind of dark grit that reweaves the codes of those old pulp masters into strange new twists and turns, breaking with the clichés and offering us a vision of those low-life scumbags and criminals that live in the inner circles of our own hellish landscapes. Losers, drifters, con-men, drunks, druggies, all the down and out part-souled creatures that inhabit the back alleys of our minds seem to come out of the woodworks and dives in the city of Paignton.

This is a world where pessimism and cynicism fall short, a violent backwater of the imagination where primal fear and terror haunt the broken realities of some forgotten realm. Tom’s captured this sense of depressive realism and extreme despair of these fragmented souls living on the edge of suicide and mayhem. A realm where the puppet’s have forgotten they have strings, and the puppet master’s churn out psychomachia’s  to entertain the godless sadomasochists of some hidden order of corruption.

Walking through Paignton our PI describes the hellish world: “The town centre seems to be smothered under a sodium streetlight haze. Shaven-headed men congregate in pub doorways, drinking lager. Despite the icy weather, some are topless, and their big stomachs hang over their belts. Feverish eyes follow me through town, towards Winner Street.”1 (p. 16).

Typical of those older pulp PI’s our protagonist is not unknown to violence on occasion, who wouldn’t be living in hell’s half-acre? Working for clientele like Malcolm Chang a local kingpin mushed up with all the usual stench of such backroom escapades our PI takes on the case of an EX-lounge-lizard, whose daughter has gone missing. A case that will lead us into the seamy world of body traffickers where children become the scrip in a sex-world as old as human sin itself. Hounded by the local cops, wanted in connection to murder, our edgy PI wanders the misery prone streets seeking out the stories of the young woman’s disappearance learning more than he wanted to know. One remembers all those child trafficking tales of Andrew Vachss. Leins has taken such learning and brought it down into his own dark parables with the sorcery of a well seasoned professional whose research into those black corners of the mind tempt us to know things we should leave in the unknown, and yet give us back again a certain type of knowledge that wounds us with the night visions of nightmare and hell’s flowers.

This is not Rey’s first escapade, and Tom Leins has filled out this character in previous haunts: Skull Meat, Snuff Racket, and Meat Bubbles and other stories. Each with its own distinctive story line and pulped darkness. Light entertainment? Only if you like to drink Kool-Aid arsenic for breakfast. Enjoy these dark twisted tales from the hellish sea-side town of Paignton. And, tell them Hickman sent you… maybe they’ll even bless you with a slug or two to the head just for chuckles.


You can find out more about Tom Leins,

Personal Website: Things To Do IN Devon When Your Dead

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14431428.Tom_Leins

Published by Cold2TheBones: http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/wp/


  1. Leins, Tom. Boneyard Dogs: A Paignton Noir Mystery. Close To The Bone (July 26, 2019)

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 4

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans,
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens…
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,
Where lived a country boy name of Johnny B. Goode…
– Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry

He loved that song. He’d play it over and over in his head, day and night, year after year. It was him. Except that next refrain: “He never ever learned to read or write so well, But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell.” For him it was just the opposite. He could read and write perfectly, but hell if he could carry a tune or play a guitar. Not that he hadn’t tried when he was growing up, but something in him just wasn’t quite right for that sort of thing. He couldn’t put his hand on it, either. Most of it started with his sister.

He remembered the first time he’d had sex. It wasn’t quite what he’d expected of course. He’d always dreamed about those cheerleaders at the high school. Those short skirts they wore, and that little crease of flesh he could see when they threw them up so high. No. It didn’t happen that way at all. Cheerleaders thought he was a freak. Even the ugly girls stayed away from him. He’d learned to bide his time, stay to himself mostly. Then one day something happened to change all that.

Instead his older sister had stumbled in one night when Paps was out setting traps. She was drunk and higher than a kite. She rummaged around in the kitchen for a while, munching down on whatever she could find. Satisfied she started playing with herself there on the couch. When she got tired of that she got this funny smile on her face. The young man laying over in his corner of the cabin reading or pretending to read, watched on as she ambled over and undressed right there in front of him. He thought to himself, whether he should run or just sit there. He had no clue what she was up too. So he sat there and wondered at it. He had no feelings one way or the other.

She crawled up there in bed with him and said, “What you reading there, little Johnny?” Then she took that book out of his hands and said, “Why don’t you read me, little boy blue.” It wasn’t a question, more like an invite. She felt down where his manhood sat like a stone, unmoved. She twitched at it till suddenly something happened he’d never felt before nor since. It came alive at her touch.

* * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

 

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 3

origami

One thing led to another and the boys finally got around to telling us what we were here for. Joel said they’d found something strange up on one of the dry beds out there.

“What the fuck you own about, Joel.” I wanted to sound pissed even if I wasn’t.

“Well, I was getting to it, if you’d let me finish,” he looked at me quizzically. “Oh, hell, let’s just show these boys. Don’t matter much now, they done spoiled the fun and all.”

So we proceeded to follow these pecker-heads into the flat boats. They did it the old way, too. No fancy trolling motors on these rigs. No. Just long poles to push and push and push. Sometimes when one is floating through the swamps things begin to pop up around you, things in the murk. Old things that seemed to have been there from the beginning, as if God had said on that last day before he rested: “I seem to be forgetting something. Ah, yes, evil crawly swamp things, mud creatures and slime monsters. I’ll just set them all down here. That’s good. Now multiply and grow and keep reminding these little mortal gods of their sinful nature.” Now of course such fables are full of holes, but I’ll tell you that ever since my Paps told me that story when I was a kid I keep looking round just in case. Only thing is I don’t mind such things as one finds in these muddy waters, it’s the things that crawl around in the cesspool of civilization that worry me. The one’s that walk on two feet are truly evil incarnate.

We must’ve pushed in and out of old cypress stumps and gully inlets for two hours or more when Joel said: “It’s up here boys.” Course, what the hell it was would soon be known.

We got out of the flats and slurped in some soft mud pulling them up with us. I knew I should have brought my sloshing boots with me. I looked at Caleb. He shrugged. Be dammed.

We followed Joel through the brush. He had a machete and beat back some of the overgrowth, clearing things as he moved ahead. Finally we came to a makeshift clearing in some scrub pines, thin as my legs. The we saw it.

Hanging from the trees was this cocoon like thing, all wrapped up in string and tape with wood dangling out of it, and ribbons flowing down all black and red. Strangest concoction I’d ever seen. Couldn’t make heads or tales of it till I noticed it had eyes, or should I say, “missing eyes”. Then it dawned on me, my dream. Was that a premonition of this? Dam. What was going on inside me, anyway? Maybe I’m finally going mad. I doubted that, but one could never be sure in these weird times.

I looked at Joel, saying, “Did you boys tell the local parish sheriff or wildlife about this yet?”

“Nah, knowing Caleb like we do, we figured there might be some kind of reward for such things. So we figured best to let him in on it and figure all that out for us.”

“Good thinking, Joel.” I wanted to smack Caleb up side the head now, but refrained. He’d been dealing with these swamper’s, Redbones, Cajuns, and all for years, feeding them a little money and stipend now and then just to keep them on a chain.

What was odd as I walked around this thing, this dead thing that had been a human at one time was not the way it had been wrapped or even the wrapping but the pose; it was somehow all too familiar, as if it had been set there in that pose specifically for me to see, as if it were trying to tell me something, a message. It was posed like that little piece of origami I had stuffed in my pocket now. I took it out and lifted it up examining it more closely, walking slowly around this human death in front of me. The stench was almost too much even for me, and I’d always prided myself how much of it I could take in like the odor of death was a poetry only an old detective could savor. But the truth was death is not an aesthetic substance to be savored, its a horror to be forgotten.

“Well this wasn’t some poaching affair, that’s for certain.” Caleb was always obvious.

I looked at him, shook my head. “I think this one’s too big for us, Caleb, best let the Baton Rouge boys have a run at this one. I suspect serial, and that means it’ll go State and Federal most likely.” He nodded.

All I hoped for now was to pick up the crumbs they’d leave behind till it lead me to that Big X I had in my mind’s map.

Caleb talked to the boys while I looked around the perimeter. Nothing here. Didn’t expect as much. Whoever this was worked alone, methodical, and was intelligent; and, most of all, had been raised in these parts somewhere close by. Made me begin to think. Who did I piss off? Then I began running all those old cases through my mind’s computer.

 * * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 2

Painting Cajun Sunset by Aaron Freeman

The boy was still in the trunk of the red truck, out like a light. The bottle of chloroform had done the trick. The boy would sleep like a baby. At least for now.

The young man had been a lab tech at one time and knew a few things about mixing chemicals. Some bleach and acetone in the right parts cooled down to the right temperature till it became cloudy had worked like a charm. The boy had been so surprised when he’d snuck up and put that potato sack over him so fast he’d frozen. It gave the young man just enough time to put the sleepness over his face. Even through the burlap it was doused enough it almost made the young man himself a little dizzy, but the boy went limp before he even reached the recommended time-frame. He was happy with himself about that. He even allowed himself a smile.

He’d parked the truck up in the trees and made room in the lockbox, a little blanket and pillow for the trip out to the cabin. He put tape over the boys mouth just in case, and tied his hands up tight with just enough room to maneuver without getting loose or cutting circulation. He wanted this boy to live and suffer long. 

The boy wouldn’t go anywhere after he locked the box up. So it didn’t much matter.

Once he laid the boy in there he went back into his cab, popped the lid on a Jax and sipped it till dusk.

He listened to some of that new Cajun music station which seemed to be all they played anymore round these parts. Amanda Shaw was playing; he liked her voice, had that comfort zone inflection to it he so liked.

When it was pitch black out he started the truck up, and plunged off into the darkness listening to that warm lovely voice singing about Sweet Honey.

* * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 1

He wasn’t talking yet, just driving out and away from the city. Sometimes Caleb could be an ornery cuss when he wanted to be. But I did as he asked, kept quiet let him finish his little charade, allowed him to take me to wherever it was that he would finally unload on me, tell me his thoughts plainly and without emendation.

We’d turned off of Highway 10 onto a watershed road leading to the break lines deep into the Atchafalaya swamp. It was a clear day and the sun beat down on us like an old man with something terrible on his mind. I kept thinking about Bethany’s homemade buttermilk loafs she’d been pulling out of that oven of hers, wishing I had a little of that sweet blackberry marmalade and a slab of butter right now. Instead I was chewing on jerky tougher than sod in a bad winter wondering how I’d let myself be talked into this affair by Caleb in the first place. I finally said: “What the fuck, Caleb, where you taking us? Old Man Jabon Choats place?”

Jabon was Redbone, part of that people that migrated long ago from South Carolina after the Louisiana Purchase. He and his sons lived in an old rickety cabin in these parts close by the bayou with his three sons. He did gatoring out there in those swamps. Made enough to keep him and his three boys busy, though; that is, unless poachers would snag his bait traps and abscond with his livelihood. He’d gotten himself in trouble a few times when folks went missing out here, but such was the way of the swamp; if you crossed the line, you’d have to pay it down if you were caught. People lived beyond such worlds as law and order in these swamps, they didn’t give a shit about your laws or your governments out here. They made their own sort of freedom, and death, too. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement kept a pretty good tabs on such things now, though. So most of the notions of killing had become just bunk and grist for tourists touring the region. Yea, even the tourists were getting in on these lands now. Dam.

Finally Caleb slowed down to a crawl and stopped by an old levee fallen in disrepair years ago. Long ago they’d tried to drain parts of this swamp and redirect its flows trying to absolve problems with the Mississippi river at that time. It hadn’t done much good for the river, and had caused havoc on the swamplands turning parts that had been dry wet, and wet dry. Real smart people they got up there in the Capitol. Yep, hired all those young scientist types who really know what their doing alright. Those boys and their books seem to know everything from what I hear tell. Well, I’m not keen on all that study, but I know a couple things here and there. I just keep my nose in front of me like an old coon dog and scent a trail when its odor comes my way. I’m full of shit, too. Still it’s funny how things always seem to run amok when smart men get together and think they can fix things up that don’t need fixing; nature has her own way, and man’s been interfering in her business for far too long now, and it may just come back to bite us one day.

“We’re here.” He said matter-of-factly like we was parked in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or some such place.

I looked around me and could see nothing but sugarcane and moss spun cypress trees running down into the backwash of swamps further in the distance. We were somewhere above Attakapas Island on the Atchafalacha river where Bayou Sorrel meets the Little Bayou. But who was keeping names, anyway? There was an overgrown footpath leading off toward a clump of birch and pine in the distance on higher ground. Further to the right I could make out a lone ibis, and what appeared to be a spoonbill in the brackish waters off and away from the dry ground. Up high, floating there like the hunter it is, was a dark hued hawk; most likely a red-shoulder with those white freckles on its feathers, hovering on the wind, at ease with life seeking a rabbit or squirrel far below. Hard to tell sometimes from such a distance. As a kid my Big Daddy took me out in the swamps all the time and would point out every single thing that was living, and even the things that weren’t. Sometimes I surprise myself at what stuck.

Caleb pulled up when we reached the edge of the shadows falling between the sun and pines, saying: “We’re meeting Jabon Choats boys down here.” Yea, here being in the middle of Iberville parish, meeting some cagy swamper’s that would just as soon shoot you for poaching as look at you. He yelled out: “Hey, Joel, you in there?”

A voice came out of the pitch black: “Nah, we ain’t in here. Go away!”

“Now is that a way to be, Joel, after we being so kind to come out here all this way just to chat with you and your brothers on a Sunday afternoon?” Caleb could be persuasive when he wanted.

“Who’s your friend, Caleb? I don’t ‘member Paps saying anything about other people tagging along.” He chuckled, and in the background one heard the other boys chuckling as well, as if it were all in a day’s fun.

Caleb got pissed then, “I’m going to kick you fucking fools from here to the other side New Iberia, boy, if you keep messing with me; you, hear?”

“Ok, ok,” Joel said. “Don’t get your gander in a tizzy, we’s just a joshing. You know that.” The other boys all agreed and mumbled.

So we proceeded into the darkness of those pines like we had good sense, to meet these swamper’s who had only the sense their Paps had laid down in them somewhere between being eaten by a gator or killing one. Of course they were a deal smarter than that, hell Joel himself held a degree from Louisiana State, but hated the city world so much, and the dead end jobs with their insufferable bosses and creep up the corporate ladder that he’d given up after three years and come back to home to live without all those plastic luxuries that life could afford. Yea, something about the smell of swamps seemed to ooze out of these boys. But it was their way, and sometimes I envied them, that.

* * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

 

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Two – Scene 5

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Caleb’s son Jack was off to college at Tulane, playing in his second year as a wide receiver on the Green Wave’s prime roster. I’d never played much ball myself, but Caleb had been an off-guard tackle in his day; short, squat, and flush mean, pound per pound.

I was sitting here on the edge of his son’s bed with a cup of Joe that was steaming thick and good. I could smell hominy, grits and bacon and a lot of other tidbits coming from the kitchen. Bethany if anything was one of the best cooks I’d ever had the pleasure to have a sit with and exchange insider information of certain old time recipes. She was really good.

I couldn’t take a shower now. I needed some of that good food.

She’d fry up some of her perdu – or, day old French bread in lard with slabs of thick cut bacon, and a honey and cane mixture that would light a mind for a year. Topped it off with rice, grits, hominy and sweet potatoes with a touch of homemade mayhaw jelly and fig preserves, and some dipped peppers deep fried in buttermilk and cornmeal and I was fit to be tied. Then came the cooked onions, garlic, bell pepper and celery with the sea bass and shrimp or crawdads in a creole that would send me to hell happy. All of these fixings that would have made any grown man crawl on his knees begging her to marry him. Shame she was already taken, and to my partner Caleb, too. Dam. Well, a good dam at that.

After slurping down a few more hot steaming cups of Joe she gave me some towels and told me to march my ass off and get cleaned up. I said: “Yes, Mam, right away!”

She grinned at me like I was just an overgrow oaf, saying: “You ain’t so tough, you just think you is. Now get out of here, I got to clean this man mess up. Go on, go on… Get!”

She pushed me out of there and the sliding door closed with a thud behind me. Of course Caleb was sitting there reading the Sunday paper looking up shaking his head at me.

I laughed and proceeded to the shower stall.

“Hurry up, we got to talk!” He hollered as I shut the door and turned on that hot steam. He could wait, this couldn’t.


* * *

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.  

Notes: This is one of those I’ll come back to add more context and vocals, figure Bethany should have something to say to him, a little advice, etc. Women down home love to give advice, let you know what your life is, and what it should be, and how you need to get away from moping, etc. Work, work, work is always the answer down there, until you so exhausted and the money is on the table then she’s happy.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Two – Scene 4

 

She was walking away from him toward the back of the house, her soft hair so fine and pressed smooth with layering’s that shifted blue on black; yet fluffy, as it dipped down into the little ringlets that fell about her thighs. He called to her, following her faster and faster down a long hallway. Every time he caught sight of her she’d disappear again into the blackness. Finally he came to a door, her door; opened it and went in, and saw her their tied up like some kind of malformed bird or winged creature, her eyes being gnawed on by two large crows, black and shiny; pecking at her eyeballs till all that was left were two empty pits staring at him with neither pity nor sadness, just an emptiness that cast a deep shadow across his life so large he’d live in it till time or time’s ruins were finished with him or else done with life itself.

He woke up in a sweat. The bed was wet in it, he felt around for some water on the side stand but forgot he wasn’t home. He was sitting in the middle of a flea-bitten motel bed on the edge of town. He threw the covers off turned on the TV went to the sink in the lavatory turned on the water: rust colored crap dribbled out, full of odd bits of metal and bugs; who knew what else. He waited for it to clear and dampened a towel that looked like it’d been chewed up by a pit bull out of pure spite and orneriness. “Dam,” he thought to himself. “What the fuck am I doing?” He was about to look in the mirror, but he knew what was there, no sense belaboring that fact again. He washed his eyes out best he could, sat down of the commode took a long constitutional and thought about things.

He wasn’t getting anywhere, he knew that. He knew Toot was not the answer, yet he’d have to follow down every path he could just to weigh out everything like a road map till it lead him to the black spot sitting there like a big X on that blank map. That was it, too. He needed something to start that process. Then he thought about that gnawing sensation in the back of his mind. Why crows? Why her eyes plucked? What did it all mean? It came to him. That little bit of nothing in his coat pocket, that folded up carnival mask or origami contraption made out of paper: what did it mean, what was it trying to tell him? First thing in the morning he’d have to go on down to Lee’s and see what he could make of it.

First thing first he needed some fresh clothes, a shave and a real shower. He felt like hell warmed over. He reached for the phone, dialed a number, said: “Coming over, ok?” Whoever was on the other end must’ve been agreeable, because he hung up, put on his clothes and left that room behind like it left a bad taste in his mouth.

* * *  

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.  

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Two – Scene 3

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He watched the young boy on the swing swaying back and forth. The boy looked to be about eight or so, tall for his age, wearing a striped blue and white shift. Had those funny looking running shoes like one of those basketball stars he loved to watch on the TV once in a blue moon, when his mother would let him. The young man in the pick up had been watching the boy for a week now. Knew his every move. Knew his friends, where he liked to hide out, what paths he took too and from school or play. He’d studied him carefully; methodically.

If a sheriff’s deputy had driven by at that moment he’d of probably waved and the young man sitting in the Ford pickup with its beat up look: dents, scrapes, and rusty red exterior ready to fall apart right there on the street. But if that officer had taken a closer look, actually studied the young man’s eyes he’d of given it a second thought. He’d probably of rubbed his own eyes and hoped what he’d seen in that young man wasn’t really there. Those eyes were blank and lifeless as if there was absolutely no one home. Eyes staring out of those black sockets were like doorknobs rubbed smooth over years of neglect and abuse, leaving nothing but that tarnished and worn look that such things get after a century of use and abuse.

It was those lifeless eyes that were now staring cold and in deadly earnest at the eight year old swinging by himself in the swing. All the other children seemed to be content to play by the schoolyard, running and hopping around the gym bars like little monkeys. While others were at the tether-ball court whipping the balls round and round, back and forth like their lives depended on it. But the young man in the truck wasn’t worried the least about all these other children. No. He had a plan. Not a good one. But a plan nonetheless.

He heard the buzzer go off for school’s end. He knew the boy went home the same route everyday. He’d been watching him for a week. He knew as well there was a place the boy would take a short-cut by the creek, a cut in the fence that allowed him to sneak on down and across the now dry creek bed near a wash out. He’d walk up that way by a clump of river birch and wild lavender lilacs, and other growth of weed and wild flowers jutting up in batched defense of a hidden spot within those trees. He’d wait there for the boy and be ready. He started up the truck and headed back down the dry creek road he’d come from, his eyes still focused and dull as a doorknob.

 * * *

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.  

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Two – Scene 2

Every time I walk into Toot’s joint down on Sixth and Vine I get this ugly feeling all over me, like something crawled out of the sewers and was enveloping me with its slimy waste. It was that kind of place. Clientele down and out for the count. Women and men hibernating in cold, damp booths where even the darkness was to bright for their taste. This is where Jezzie – short for Jezebel LeBlanc, Lobelia’s older sister, worked cleaning and tending bar as if it was just a bad habit she’d learned to live with; all in a day’s work: nothing to it, just another wonderful life here in God’s sweet country. Yea, but her god wore horns and did a gig every Saturday night down in Bo Town in the backwoods with more than a little hoot and whiskey, and a lot of dancing and carousing.

No telling why she did it. It wasn’t as if she needed money. Her drug slinging man, Booker T. Toutant worked these streets like it was his private store padding his wallet without a brow sweat. He had teams of hungry teens out there willing to pop one and take the heat for it now and then just to make a moment’s cash out.

She was in the back storeroom bringing up a box of Jax for the cooler from the basement. She smiled at me with those big teeth and cheery dimples that still left me in awe.

“How ya doin’, Jess? Been a long time since I seen you round here.” She said sarcastically. Then she pushed past me like she was hurt I hadn’t dropped by sooner cause of her sis.

Yea, I felt bad about that, but not enough to cry over. Not yet, anyway. “So I here tell, Toot – my nick for her man, is riding his boys hard these days.

She gave me a look. “Don’t you be bad mouthing my man now. You here me you cocksucker!”

I always did like anger in a woman, brought out the underbelly of their venom where one could deal with it. It was the ones that hid it behind smiles you had to be careful of, those were the deadly ones. Like cobras, those were. “Nah, Hun, I didn’t mean nothing by it.”

“Well, you sure and hell ain’t come here to shoot the shit with me, I know that much. So what the hell you want. Why aren’t you out there getting her killer instead of in here bothering me you bastard. Tell me that?” Her eyes had that black fire and were sparking like those July 4th fireworks down on Pogan Creek. Yea, I’d best just state my business and be gone.

“Ok, Hun…”

“Don’t you, Hun, me you son-of-a-bitch. Get the fuck out of here, will ya… of course you’re not, I can see that long way away. So get it out you toad, you. What you want. Just say it and be gone.” She said matter of factly.

“Simple, Jezzie, did Toot have any troubles of late? Anything out of the ordinary? Maybe those Big Boys from up East come collecting and not get what they came for? …”

“What you getting at? You think my man had something to do with my little sister’s death? Is that it? Why you two-bit bastard.” Those fireworks had become bombs exploding now. She picked up one of those frosted beers from the cooler and pitched it at me like an infield thrower. Dam she’s good. If I hadn’t been keyed up I’d of gotten it on the kisser, sure tell. Luckily it grazed my right shoulder and skimmed off lightly or I’d been laid out good.

“Ok, ok… I had to ask, Jezz!” I said cautiously.

“Well if you have to ask, why don’t you go ask him yourself. Get the hell outta here now, before I get all these boys to throw you out.” She pointed to a bunch of overgrown teenage hoodlums at the pool tables in the back who were all itching to do just that. One even began walking toward me in earnest.

“I wouldn’t do that, son, if you know what’s good for you.” I said with just enough force to make him stop and think about it.

She gave him a look. He slowly backed up to where his friends stood snickering at him now.

I did the same. Slowly backed out of that cage like I was a tiger ready to pounce on anything that might move my way.

* * *

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.  

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

 

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Two – Scene 1

Read earlier parts here: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress


“Hi, Jess,” she said so easily. “Why don’t you come over here and sit a bit, Hun.”

She was known as Genevieve Eglantine after her late husband, Beauregard. She was creole through and through, had that patois that gave her voice a certain music and a rhythm like no other. Her skin was creamy and coppery almost the color of twilight on those evenings late in August when the lazy sun sits there in the West like an old man who’s just taking his good old time crossing the river into eternity.

“Hi, Gen, your looking good.” I said simply with no inflection. All these years I’d been knowing Lobelia I’d spent more time on Genevieve’s verandah than I’d ever done in that beautiful little alcove of hers there on Dupart. We seemed always to be over here visiting listening to the tales her moman could relate for hours on end. Her eyes were as bright as the Magnolias that surrounded her estate in abundance and were even now giving off such a wondrous fragrance. She wasn’t wealthy by any means of the word, but her husband had been successful as a Doctor – or, more precise, a Surgeon – and left her this land and enough stipend to keep her going for years.

There’s always been this unwritten history of the Creole peoples in these parts, one with its inner logics, its turmoil’s and drifts of power and corruption like anything else in this world; yet, there was this abiding sense of dignity, of a sense of justice and pride – not that false pride of ego, but of a people born out of that long heritage of slavery who’d overcome odds and risen above it all. Oh, sure, one could point the finger to the early histories, but who could say for sure; all these new fangled new historians seemed to want to rewrite the world if they could and replace the inner soul history of whole peoples with their melodramas of historical necessity and micro-surgeries of time. All I needed was a couple hours sitting right here listening to Genevieve describe her life to know the truth of it. That was enough for me. Let those historians be hanged.

“I know what you’re thinking, Jess.” she said, softly.

She always did have a way about her, like she could read my mind before I’d even formulated a thought or question for myself.

“What’s that, Mama?”

“That you’re going to kill this man once you find him.” she said with an almost provocation; then she continued, “I wouldn’t blame you, Son. But you very well no it want change a thing. She’s gone. She want be coming back. Accept it. Move on. Put this down and let the others handle it.”

I sat there for a few more minutes. I knew there wasn’t much else to say. Never was. She was right. I should just let it go, move on with my life and let the past bury the past; but, she and I both knew that wasn’t going to happen. Not now. Not ever. Yet, she was right about one thing: I’d not kill the bastard, not yet at least. No I wanted him to suffer. Suffer real bad. But first I had to find him.

I leaned over gave her a big hug. She kissed me on the left cheek, saying, “You keep out of mischief, here? I don’t want this to bury you, okay?”

“Don’t you worry, Moman, I’ll be taking care, you hear. You do the same, okay?” I said, holding back a little.

“Why you don’t have to worry about old Gen, now; you young’uns always trouble about us oldsters when its you that should be worried. You get out of here before I get up and whip you. Shoo!” She grinned.

I smiled. I knew she’d be taken care of good. I could see old man Jesper Tyburn out there in the garden even now. He had a place out back with his wife, and tended the yard and shopping. Yes, she was just fine.

 * * *

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.  

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter One: Scene 3

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I cannot say I’m a bitter man, I think it goes much deeper than that and escapes such notions of emotion as hate and anger; it’s something else, something more primal, locked into one’s life like two pit bulls cornered in rage, slung into a cage or dug hole without escape, left to fend for themselves, enact what they’ve been bred for all these many years: to fight, to kill, to silence the rage in their own hearts till it bleeds out into the black earth. I’m that pit bull in the cage, and I’m not bleeding enough.

Lobelia Leblanc lived somewhere in that hinterland of my mind where everything I hold precious and dear moves in its own paradisial light. That’s the way it would stay. Yet, something had come along one day and snatched it up, taken it off into a place it did not want to go, into a darkness so dark that even thought itself could not regain control nor move in that thick pit of despair beyond human reason or need. As I walked along the avenue in front of her old home on Dupart Avenue I began thinking about who or what kind of being would have done such an act of horror on my Lobelia.

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Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter One – Scene 2

Sometimes I almost think I’ve got it all figured out. Like there’s this map in my head of the way things are, or the way things ought to be; but then things happen to fuck the map up, little things that just don’t seem right, don’t seem to be in the right place, as if some asshole had moved the pieces around on the map just to screw with my mind. Then one day everything on the map flat out disappears, vanishes before your very eyes, as if it had never been there. That’s when your stripped down bare, left naked in the face of the darkness that seems to be everywhere and especially in you. No place to hide, no place to run because you are the darkness while the darkness last. You’re in the old parlance, fucked royal. No getting around that.

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Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter One – Scene 1

A Chapter from a noir I’m working on… a sort of trial run. More or less trying out openings for the story. Typical plot at the moment of a basic detective in a rural community, could be almost anywhere and I’m trying to leave it unsituated for the skeleton version. Working the old notion of revenge killing in which the detective’s lady is killed by the brother of a woman who the detective killed in a shoot out over a drug heist gone wrong in which a sheriff deputy had been murdered off duty. Jesse Coulter (yes using the old outlaw name unaffiliated ), the detective worked the case and ended up killing the girl and one of the other heist members in a shoot out. Now the brother is seeking not only revenge but to drive Jesse into the ground, make him pay dearly by killing everyone in his life that ever meant something. That’s the basic set up. Now I have to make the cliché interesting.

I’ve another opening that starts with the brutal killing, but for some reason it just doesn’t work for me. I want this to be a love and death noir, with that romance and underpinning of revenge. It’s as if the anti-hero who you’ll see is brutal himself is partially the cause of his own worst nightmares. As in most noir everything seems as if a script built for doom. Yet, I want it to be a opening novel in a series so am going to play the romance off the death plot see where that takes me. Either way all comments welcome as usual.

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