Monday, October 3, 2016

The Nomenclature of Noir

-a review of Kate Pilarcik's The Damp Fedora

"Reading The Damp Fedora" copyright 2016 Kristin Fouquet

Noir fiction evolved from the hard-boiled and crime genre fiction with origins in the 1920s, particularly the stories from Black Mask magazine. Dashiell Hammett created the suave, clever Sam Spade and the ever-charming Nick and Nora Charles. Raymond Chandler conceived tough guy, detective Philip Marlowe. In The Damp Fedora, Kate Pilarcik introduces Nelle Callahan: “Hello there. Cop a seat. Sit a spell. They call me Nelle. Nelle Callahan. I’m a private eye with a penchant for winking trouble’s way. I can load a Luger or lead on a loser without looking over my shoulder, come the end of a coffee and doughnut day. That’s how they come to you. When you least expect it. But you knew that. You’re no flimflam or chump. You’re jake.”

Nelle’s first person account eases into third person for the remainder of the “noirvella,” but her lingo, her cracking wise, never lets up throughout the case. She manages to garner respect with her wits and moxie without having to sacrifice her sex appeal and femininity. In one scene, the bountiful banter between Nelle and her debonair, damp fedora-wearing new client is reminiscent of the sexy and smart verbal exchange between characters Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell portrayed in the movie, “His Girl Friday.” The choice of the word “scene” was no accident as Pilarcik’s novella would effortlessly translate into a film. The story weaves fictional intrigue with events and supporting characters of historical accuracy all to a 1940s soundtrack.

In the end, it may seem Nelle leaves you too soon, but hold onto your hat because she’ll be back. Oh, she’ll be back and until then, her jaunty words will keep you company. You’ll see.

-Kristin Fouquet
October 2, 2016

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