When People Wore Hats

Hat, notebook, coffee cup on desk

There are rules about when you are supposed to take your hat off. Jake puts his hat on the desk, places the coffee in the other, far, corner and slaps his notebook down.

October 10
Outline — Neo-noir story.

The flat surface will misshape the brim and it is in his way. He moves the hat to the door’s knob.

Chandler is the model. He is known for believing the story is incidental. It’s the telling that counts. Yet his twisted plots typify the genre.

The Detective: Post-war L.A.. A man of character, weary, feeling the scars from years of month-to-month living in the margins of society. Cynical about the people he deals with without being a full-time cynic. He cares about justice more than laws and its corrupt representatives.

Name? Kris, a different type of dagger. Kris Kindly. An homage that will probably go unnoticed. Nevertheless it is amusing to leave clues in a detective story.

Marlowe rolls his own cigarettes and, like Chandler and Holmes, smokes a pipe. In the movies he pops tailor-mades to the side of his mouth and if he ever smoked a pipe it is demonstrably forgettable because it is not part of the trope.

The Dame, because it has to be a “Dame.”

How much period appropriate language to use? Minimize by avoiding adjectives. Making Kerouac race-blind always makes his prose more acceptable and takes nothing away from it’s quality.

The Dame: To borrow Chandler’s words,“less than beautiful and more than pretty.” An original way to say it? Made-up she turned heads and she had her makeup on.

The job is the start of the story and not the plot of the story. A missing object or person. A person. It is easier, less mythology to create. His hiring is part of the antagonist’s diabolical plan. The Dame is an unwilling agent for the antagonist. Blackmailed through family. A weak younger brother is classic.

A mob boss in the background. Originally a suspect and a health concern for Kris Kindly. It resolves in a mano-a-mano talk where they make an honour-code deal based on the recognition of a shared objective with different motives.

The true antagonist turns out to be an ambitious lieutenant in the boss’ crew. The ambition taking the form of a heroin start-up and the boss has a rule against dealing in smack.

The kid brother is a World War 2 veteran who’s wounding in the Pacific led to a morphine habit that morphed into an opium habit before becoming a state-side heroin habit. The habit needs a sob story. A lost shipment when acting as a runner to pay for a dose. A dose he couldn’t wait to consume, the goods stolen when nodding. Now he is indentured labour. And supposedly missing.

“Tea” has to come up. The odour showing up when Kris Kindly goes to opium dens, to dive hotels, shooting galleries. A smoker forced to give him leads to places where the kid could be.

The cops corrupt. In some of the municipalities of the renamed metro L.A. area, like the boss, they were okay, for a price, with girls and gambling. In others they had a price for everything. The boss’ contribution to the deal with Kris Kindly is a warning that the suburb he is going to has a menu with so many options that, if they printed it, would look like the newspaper’s stock market listings.

The detective will need a car. Ten years old, cheaper pre-war model. A Packard or a Studebaker would be cool if they were making the right type of car in the thirties.

The lieutenant had a deal gone bad in the wrong jurisdiction. To hide it from the boss, he is trying to pin it on Kris. Planted opium hinting at a hidden habit as the motive.

Kris will end up getting sapped at least once. He will need to find a few dead bodies along the way, only some of which he’ll report to the less corrupt cops.

The brother will end up overdosing in his hideaway near the end of the story. Part of the denouement and the reason why the Dame will go back to her Midwestern home where no one will ever know how beautiful she is when dolled-up.

A few twists and turns to make the plot hold together, plenty of banter and it’s a Chandler style story.

Jake reads his notes. Where’s the neo in the noir?

Add gore, scatological details when describing squalor and graphic sex. Sex. In a couple of his stories, Chandler really took it as far he could for his day. He didn’t skip straight to breakfast. He waited before turning out the lights.

Jake leans back satisfied. He has his story.

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