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People do terrible things

A. N. Smith

People do terrible things to each other, and we like to watch. See it all over TV and films: Springer is a side show. News programs go undercover and spring surprises on interviewees. They broadcast car chases on live TV. Anyone involved with any scandal can pick and choose from book deal offers. What crime fiction used to provide for usóan escape from reality into a darker place we donít get to see oftenóhas stiff competition from the new hyper-reality. We want experiences at a more dangerous proximity than before. We want true stories because it taps into the nagging question in our minds: "Whatís going on next door?" So, how can hard-boiled crime fiction, the American-made dumping ground for our fears and anxieties, compete with that in the twenty-first century? Thatís easy. It can compete by making me feel. Reality TV numbs us. Itís all glitter and flash, pointing to horror like itís a zoo exhibit. But noir fiction drags us along. Weíre there. We can empathize.

Iíve loved crime fiction from reading my first Hardy Boys book in second grade. The cover was an immediate draw: two guys in a falling airplane, collision with ground imminent. So, yeah, I wanted to see if it actually did crash (I donít remember. Probably not). Iíve graduated since then, past the simple detective aspects of the genre into the dark corners where the heroes are losers, nothing goes the way they would like it to, and I get that "watching a car wreck" thrill at seeing fictional lives fall apart. Something about that gets to me. I feel for themósad, pathetic, angry, heartbroken. To read something and be heartbroken, thatís what keeps me coming back. Donít get too clever or paranoid. Donít toss fifty red herrings and ten government conspiracies into the mix. Tell me the stories about people and the bad things we do to each other. They hold up well, as we see by the endurance of Hammett and Chandler, James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, Patricia Highsmith, and from the popularity of neo-noir writers like Ellroy, George Pelecanos, John Ridley, many others. Noir reaches past plot to get us involved with the characters. And to tell these charactersí stories, the writers have to shake up the language, too. They break it up, string it out, beat it, leave stuff out, go too far, push it out of bounds.

Iíve got a foot on both sides of the fiction fence: literary on one side, hard-boiled crime on the other. As a writer, most days I try to mix them together and tear the fence down. Iíve usually rebuilt it by dayís end, but I try again the next day. As a fan, I find so much strong work in the genre, it is frustrating to see it pushed aside and looked down on with great snobbishness because it is, after all, only crime fiction. With my Internet crime journal Plots With Guns, Iíve been able to find noir writers that are working in new areas and challenging the norms, doing work I think should be considered literary. I publish those stories and try to push those writers towards fortune and glory.

With this issue of Blip Magazine Archive, I was able to approach some Top Guns in the genre, those who have been making a splash in the last decade with strong contemporary noir works, and ask for a contribution. Theyíve provided some interesting and dark work, living up to their reputations. I also approached some up-and-coming noir writers, those Iíve crossed paths with recently and whose work has blown me away. Bold steps from these folks. I thank them for the time and effort they put into it, and thanks to FB for the opportunity to show these stories to everybody else.

--Anthony Neil Smith


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