My first mystery story, “Cafe Noir,” is in the latest issue of Mysterical-E. You can read it here. I’ve already talked a little about this story in an earlier post on this blog. It’s an homage to Raymond Chandler, and more generally to the noir genre.
I love noir, but it does feature hidebound gender roles, so I thought it might be fun to try to reverse these. My heroine, Marla Phillips, “barista and private eye,” is tough, no-nonsense, and smart. She’s not attached to anyone, although she is in a “strictly don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship with an homme fatal who has an apartment over the coffee shop she manages.
(This isn’t noir, but does illustrate a certain laissez-faire attitude toward alcohol during the highpoint of noir.)
I chose a coffee shop to update the role of alcohol in noir because people just don’t drink quite the way they used to, and they don’t have the same attitudes toward hard-drinking tough guys like Philip Marlowe. His drinking might be viewed today as more of a problem or a weakness.
But we still love our caffeine, and we tend to view people who drink a lot of coffee as either super busy achievers or people who have a tough job that they are going to do come hell or high water, and who needs sleep anyway? So I substituted coffee for alcohol.
I don’t know nearly as much about Los Angeles and its criminal underworld as Chandler, so I just went with what I do know, and set the story in an academic community. Also, it’s funny. It parodies noir, though never in a mean way. At one point it satirizes a hipster character. And in implementing Chandlerian metaphors I may have exaggerated their humorous aspects.
Still, as with Chandler, there’s a murder, no one is innocent, and readers should have a fun challenge trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Enjoy!
waferboard, “Coffee Steam 2.” CC. https://flic.kr/p/cirujw. Only size has been adjusted.