Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Perfect Length...

As a rule, I don't write short fiction.

Not that I consider it a lesser form, or anything like that. If anything, it's harder to write a really good short story than a novel, except for the amount of time involved. It's just not entirely my thing. Different skill set, different stories.

Still, I've written a short story. Very short. Some would say it's a little too long to be flash fiction, but not by very much. And kind Mr Grant over at A Twist of Noir has kindly put it on his esteemed website.

I'm giving all my loyal followers and readers (you know who you are) the chance to read it ABSOLUTELY FREE. Check that out right here.

Obviously I won't be changing my unpublished description until somebody gives me money (begin holding breath...now). Never-the-less, this is my first internet-hosted story on any website. And who knows, there just might be more where that came from. If only I can work out where it came from...

Monday, October 3, 2011

In The Mood...Tindersticks

Ok, you've got the black shirts, the rented backroom, the cigarette hanging from a corner of your mouth. You eat nothing but fried eggs and barfood, drink single malt when you got it and cheap blends or bourbon when you don't. And lots of coffee. A Goodis paperback is permanently stuffed into your pocket, and you see more neon light than sunlight.

You are so noir that you've named every stray cat in the area - the alleycats you feed scraps to at your kitchen window - after characters from Cornell Woolrich novels.

But do you have the soundtrack?

Of course, you could always just stick on your original vinyl copy of 'Kinda Blue'. It's a cliche because it's true, but also it's a cliche and you ain't impressing anyone over the age of 19 with that.

Okay, how about Tindersticks?

As Britpop exploded in the early nineties, Tindersticks were a band that naturally slunk away to the edges, the shadows. It was where they felt most comfortable. Even singer Stuart Staples was an unlikely and unwilling frontman. A multi-instrumentalist, he would've preferred the back of the stage, dutifully overlaying gentle melodies. But once his fellow bandmembers heard him at the mic, they were never going to let that rich, deep, sorrowful voice escape.

Obviously cinematic (and they've recorded a number of film scores), a song like City Sickness could easily be based on a classic film noir, while Whiskey and Water sounds like an opening monologue, as we wait for the flashback to show us the femme fatale who could reduce a man to such a state:

Turn my whiskey into water
My cigarettes? I don't know what they taste like
Other women
Seem so ugly
To me now
(Whiskey and Water)

Tindersticks abiding genius is in the chronicling of tiny moments, those flashes of understanding which illuminate broken lives and loves, the soiled dreams, the truths we dare not admit to ourselves. They know that we are not driven by love, but by the desire to possess, and that the resultant jealousy tears us apart. Like James Cain they understand that the tragedy is not in the obsession, it's in the fact that eventually the obsession is all that holds us together as a human being.

Broken hearts abound, of course, but it's never that simple. In Another Night In, a man waits, again, powerless, for his girl to return from the arms of an unknown lover, while in The Not Knowing a man admits he'd rather she cheated secretly and stayed than face up to the facts:
The not knowing is easy, and the suspecting that's okay
Just don't tell me for certain that our love's gone away
(The Not Knowing)

It's not all broken hearts of course. They're not above simple threats:

If there's ever anyone else,
I'll understand,
and kill him


but for the most part they simply chronicle the emptiness, the diseased souls and the broken dreams that crush a sad litany of empty lives. It isn't the hearts that are broken, it's the people:

There'll be another ugly scene tonight
as we refuse to accept the obvious
We panic and jump up and down
Trying to suck those last breaths
Where does the blood go, that runs away
From broken lives...

Later on they mellowed out a little, but on those first three studio albums, Tindersticks 1st (1993), Tindersticks 2nd (1995) and Curtains (1997), they provide the perfect soundtrack to your dark, mysterious, noir lifestyle. Sad, intense and soft and edgy and all kinds of other things which shouldn't go together, the music ranges around but never lightens up.

Put the needle in the groove, light a cigarette to watch burn away in the ashtray like all the nights of your life, pour yourself a bourbon, put your head in your hands, and pretend your Robert Mitchum as half-heard lyrics of blood and bruises and obsession and whispered threats and jealous confessions wash over you like the tide of night.