Kev Noir

Chat with Lansky - possible scene for Breaking Point

Being in the re-write/editing stage for my novel Breaking Point, I have had some flashes of inspiration. However, the following I'm not sure whether to add, whether it adds to the story but felt it worth writing down and speculating on no less (and Meyer Lansky I chose because he was a big mucker in the New York Underworld in the 1940s).

Collapse )

What do you all think?

Kev Noir

Review: 1984 by George Orwell

What to make of this book? It certainly left an impression on me, and I'm definitely impressed by it - very cleverly written, very much of its time and genesis, and I see the parallels between Oceania and any communist regime you care to name - but by the same token as a narrative it's predictable, at least insofar as the moment I met Winston and got acquainted with him I just knew things were not going to end well for this poor bloke. And as much as a morbid curiosity and a desire for closure, what carried me through the denouement was the faint, half-hearted hope of seeing a turn-around, a twist, a pay-off or catharsis that I knew deep down was never going to come.

The book, with its overall pessimistic tone, is definitely a product of its time and circumstances: written in the early years of the Cold War by a lifelong democratic socialist not only disenchanted but horrified by communism as it had manifested itself in practice, not to mention that he was 45 years old and slowly dying of tuberculosis. Naturally, people today will draw comparisons to our world and what has been portrayed in this narrative, between the dumbing down of Western culture and the minimalist language as exemplified in text messages sent via mobile phone or online messanger service. However, we remain free to express individuality in general (daring to be different, or alternatively take the mickey out of those who do this) and opinions in particular including religious and political views; indeed, we in the Anglosphere are free to question our heads of government and criticise or even satirise them, sometimes pushing the envelope to the point of defamation and even beyond. There is evidence enough for each side of the argument, though thankfully we still have the freedom to have such arguments.

Oh, if only dear old George/Eric had lived another fifty years or so...
Kev Noir

Words and Music

Music: the most popular facet of the arts, with the possibly exception of cinema.  It is also potentially the most commercially viable, the most subjective and at times hotly contested.  It is also the most versatile, not only in terms of genre and sub-genre, arrangement, et cetera, but also in terms of context and application, be it as a soundtrack to a movie or television show, advertising jingle (okay, bad example!), or something to listen to during times of labour or recreation, even passion, or indeed while drawing, painting, sculpting or writing.
Naturally, personal tastes vary, ditto the personal significance for each person.  When his schedule allowed, my father liked to sketch, his inspiration fuelled by airs composed by the likes of Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi.  Some writers also swear by classical music, such as Isobelle Carmody and James Ellroy, the latter being a huge fan of Beethoven.  Stephen King, on the other hand, seems to be more eclectic (according to one account I read, he even listened to Eminem!).  Whether it's because classical music tends to be unfettered by words I'm not sure, but if it works, it works.
For me personally, it depends on where I'm at, but it's often as much about getting into the right headspace, the right mindset, feeding the inspiration.  
As much of my fiction has been set in mid-twentieth century America I've sought out music from that era to help immerse myself in that given time.   For example with my first novel Breaking Point I indulged in a fair bit of The Inkspots, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and whatever else people might have listened to in New York in 1943-44, while with my current project, which is set predominantly in the South in 1929-34 I've been getting right into a rich and broad pallet of pop, jazz and folk music (including blues and country) from the 1920s and early '30s including artists as diverse as Duke Ellington, Rudy Vallee, Josephine Baker and The Carter Family.  Again, it's part of immersing myself into the era I'm writing about, even picking out a good song to help flesh out and add colour to and even echo the context of a given scene (or even the entire narrative), getting myself into that headspace (though I doubt I'd do it if I didn't enjoy it).  That said, I could be listening to something completely anachronistic, but puts me in the right headspace to write a given passage.
Having said all that, I have written certain stories or even parts while listening to music which may have been totally anachronistic but helped put me in the right headspace.  For example, when writing the crucial murder scene inBreaking Point I was listening to The End by The Doors - a tad anachronistic I know but it fit because, let's face it, it's a rather violent song therefore fitting given that I was writing a decidedly violent scene (though I had All Or Nothing At All by Frank Sinatra playing in that particular scene).  I've also gotten a fair bit of mileage out of Johnny Cash's Murder compilation while writing various crime shorts and even longer projects.  Anachronistic or not, if it feels appropriate and helps with the headspace or at least the inspiration it's completely appropriate.
So, to all of you writers and artists out there, what makes up the soundtrack to your creative pursuits?
Kev Noir

...Because no novel is complete without a title

Good news everyone!  I finally have a title for my novel (the noir novel completed in October).  After years of referring to it by its working title "Noir" it now has a real title: Breaking Point.  It's starting to feel more legit now.

A massive "thank you" to Nikki for suggesting the title, and to Sarah for encouraging me to not go with a cheesy, cliched, pulpy title like Murder in Manhattan or Death of the Black Widow or some such piffle.

Also posted at

Kev Noir

Painted Words 2011

Painted Words, the annual class anthology, the fruit of the labours of the Project Management class at Bendigo TAFE - and of course the authors of the various selected works within, and the most recent issue is now available in e-book form on  Painted Words 2011 contains a variety of great stories from a variety of great writers, including G.N. Braun, and finally yours truly has some work in print too, and may it be only the beginning.

Get your e-copy of Painted Words 2011 here, or if you're in the Bendigo area it's available in paperback from the Bendigo TAFE Library (City Campus).

Kev Noir

Good News: I finished my novel!

After several years on and off and a lot of reworking I finally finished my novel yesterday, subject to editing and proofreading.  I thought I had finished it on Sunday, but then going through and rereading it I noticed I hadn't, that there was a great big hole that needed filling, and one or two important parts missing, so I knuckled down and wrote and filled it in.  Of course, I have no doubt that I will need to do more work on it before hawking it to publishers - I've sent it to various friends to proofread it.
Also I will have to come up with a title for it as I still haven't yet.
For those who just came in, and to refresh people's memories, it’s a crime novel set in New York during the Second World War.  A wealthy but immoral socialite is murdered; the prologue details the murder scene, the first half of the narrative details the circumstances that brings us to this event and the second half deals with the consequences.  The three main protagonists are the two detectives investigating the case, Frank Roebling and Alfred O’Malley, and the husband of the deceased, Stan Rosenbaum, mob lawyer; the main antagonist is – funnily enough – the victim, Rachel Warner-Rosenbaum.  The supporting cast includes a fictionalised version of the Hell’s Kitchen Gang, an enigmatic hitman feeling conflicted about his chosen vocation, a sick, perverted multimillionaire banker and a water buffalo named Nigel.  Okay, I’m kidding about the buffalo, but the rest are definitely in there.
I like to think that I've plumbed the depths of the human experience, or at least touched on deeper themes, such as choices we make, what it is to be a man and so forth, but I might sound a bit full of myself if I carry on like that.  I guess I should let the reader be the judge.
Hopefully it’ll pass muster, get published and sell.  E-books look like the way ahead because they’re cheaper to produce and will reach a much wider audience, but I hope to see (and sign) printed copies too, and support bookstores.
Perhaps the worm is starting to turn.  It's exciting to contemplate…

Also posted in the_jester1.

  • Current Music
    "Paperback Writer", The Beatles
  • Tags
Kev Noir

The notion of a "canon" of "great books"

  What constitutes great literature, or capital-L Literature? Is the idea of a “canon” of “great books” false, or is it valid? Who is to judge what is worthy of inclusion in this “canon”? 
  Definitions in the American Heritage Dictionary include “a basis for judgement, standard, criterion”, and “an authoritative list, as of the works of an author”. But isn’t this ultimately subjective? Who is to say what should go in and what should not?
  Literature is clearly more than just the written word, more than just books. The truly great Literature is both of its time and transcends its time, and also transcends cultural barriers. It remains relevant to generations and cultures beyond those of the authors that wrote it. As Ezra Pound said, Literature is news that stays news.
  People from one or two more radical schools of thought, or collectively the “School of Resentment” – who, it would seem are basically butthurt lefties hung up on imposing “political correctness” on us all – are quick to dismiss or tear down the “straight white Christian male” element in Literature, having us believe that their work has a narrow view of the world and accuses it of being racist, sexist and homophobic. However, they are quick to forget that these writers were a product of their time, that in a lot of cases they were holding up mirrors to the society that produced them and even observing with a critical eye; furthermore they were actually the more enlightened minds of their time. More pertinently, not all of the great writers were men – Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters come to mind, and George Eliot was a woman who wrote under a man’s name and she was certainly not the only one. Not all of the great writers were straight – E.M Forster, W.H. Auden, Oscar Wilde, Sappho, Gustave Flaubert, D.H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman and W. Somerset Maugham were either gay or bisexual. (Rumour has it that Christopher Marlowe also was, and some have even suggested William Shakespeare was too, though there is no reliable evidence to support this contention). Not all of the great writers were white either – Sun Tzu, Confucius, Siddharta Gautama Buddha, Mohandas Gandhi the Mahatma (and even if they weren’t all writers, strictly speaking, they were all great authors by virtue of the words they came out with). Furthermore, it’s ironic that many of these straight white males from Europe and the Americas so maligned and even accused of anti-Semitism by aforesaid butthurt lefties had their spiritual and moral outlook influenced by a book that was written by Jews and worship a God who took human form as a Jew. Even more interestingly, there are stories which have come to us from the Far East and other traditions, stories which at the bare bones are not dissimilar to the ones in our own culture, or at least contain themes which are universal.
  I’m sure that some six hundred years on we can relate to the characters portrayed in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – the archetypal strong, silent hero in the Knight and his flashy, ostentatious Squire, the lovable rogue Monk, the grotty, scabby, drunken Cook, the hopelessly corrupt Summoner and his boyfriend the lying, greedy, hypocritical extortionist Pardoner, the unscrupulous but oafish Miller, the social-climbing Prioress and of course the decent, honest, hardworking Ploughman and the true ambassador for the Lord in the Parson. In each of these characters we see not only archetypal characters in literature, theatre, cinema and music but also people in real life who have frequently featured in real life in one manifestation or another time and time again over the centuries. Even if the language has altered dramatically there are themes and characters which are timeless, and once you can bridge the gap between medieval English and modern English (or whatever language you and yours may speak) The Canterbury Tales are very easy to understand and appreciate.
  In contrast, we have James Joyce’s Ulysses, which was written much more recently and is considered a literary classic – why? I personally found the book a little dry, not to mention a little bit full of itself, a little ostentatious, and overall difficult to read. The characters were less than engaging too. I can’t help but harbour the conviction that he deliberately wrote it as a joke to confound scholars, critics and readers. People are still bashing their heads against this brick wall hoping to break through and find the prize inside, and whether they think they have found it or really haven’t but are pretending to, or have found that it’s bullshit anyway I can still imagine Joyce laughing. And the fact that he still has people reading this book, embarking on this literary wild goose chase hoping to find the Holy Grail, nearly ninety years after it was published – that takes genius. I realise there will be people who disagree with what I say, and so the controversy also continues almost a century on so the immortality of the book and indeed of James Joyce himself is assured. Whether it actually deserves a place in the canon, well, again with the controversy. I guess bullshit is a perpetual part of society and the cultural lexicon too, even when it is not actually relevant.
  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert has all the trappings of being of its era, or close enough to it (it was first serialised then adapted as a novel in the 1850s, whereas it is set around the 1830s or ‘40s). However, there are themes in it that are still just as relevant today – adultery, forbidden love, existential angst and ennui, social status – and some that are even more relevant now than then, such as the evils of consumerism and materialism, especially on credit. Therefore it is worthy of its place in any great literary canon. Madame Bovary is reportedly the result of Flaubert caving into peer pressure to drive a stake through the heart of Romanticism, which apparently didn’t feel right for Flaubert who was still a Romanticist even as the literary world had moved on. If so, it is ironic that it should be his most famous and enduring work.
  If this story is true then one would be able to compare it to A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. In both cases we have men who wanted to be noted for something else. Tolkien as an academic, linguist and literary critic (!) who actually resented the cultural relevance the Rings books were gaining. Milne was already a novelist, poet and playwright determined to write what he pleased and refused to be confined to one genre, so Fate and the public pigeonholed him as a children’s author, and much to his disgust and annoyance the bear of “very little brain” and his mates had more or less eclipsed everything else he had created previously. Indeed, these men would probably be turning in their graves now that Lord of the Rings and Winnie the Pooh are both multi-million-dollar franchises, and the latter thanks to Disney no less.
  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley demonstrated a great degree of foresight and painted a vivid and perhaps even prophetic dystopian picture, and this statement still stands even if you strip away the science fiction exterior. When we do we are presented with a world ruled with the Pleasure Principle, manifested in consumerism and sex and infinite distractions, and the consumption of mind-altering substances is prevalent in the world portrayed too. Indeed, it is more relevant today than what it was when it was written 80 years ago. Therefore, if you believe there should be a Literary Canon, then this too would have to be included.
  According to George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History at Brown University:

“Belonging to the canon confers status, social, political, economic, aesthetic, none of which can easily be extricated from the others. Belonging to the canon is a guarantee of quality, and that guarantee of high aesthetic quality serves as a promise, a contract, that announces to the viewer, "Here is something to be enjoyed as an aesthetic object. Complex, difficult, privileged, the object before you has been winnowed by the sensitive few and the not-so-sensitive many, and it will repay your attention. You will receive pleasure; at least you're supposed to, and if you don't, well, perhaps there's something off with your apparatus." Such an announcement of status by the poem, painting, or building, sonata, or dance that has appeared ensconced within a canon serves a powerful separating purpose: it immediately stands forth, different, better, to be valued, loved, enjoyed. It is the wheat winnowed from the chaff, the rare survivor, and it has all the privileges of such survival… It also means that to read these privileged works is a privilege and a sign of privilege. It is also a sign that one has been canonized oneself -- beatified by the experience of being introduced to beauty, admitted to the ranks of those of the inner circle who are acquainted with the canon and can judge what belongs and does not.” (Landow, 2010, online)

  So we are ourselves beatified and privileged upon reading these works – so outside of this class, by reading canonical works we can actually choose to be privileged and beatified? Of course, this is provided one actually ascribes to the idea of a canon of great books to begin with. Of course, this in itself is subject to debate, the validity of the idea of a canon of great books, let alone which books belong in there and which do not.

Landow, George P., Professor of English and Art History, Brown University, “The Literary Canon” from The Victorian Web: Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria [Online].
Available: [June 18, 2011].
Stockton, Kathryn B., Associate Professor of English, University of Utah, “Canon: Dictionary Definitions” from The Victorian Web: Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria [Online].
Available: [June 18, 2011].

Kev Noir

The Muses

The Muses - who are they? What are they? And how do they relate to me?

The traditional - or at least Classical - understanding is that there are nine Muses who embody the arts and inspire creativity through such diverse forms as music, writing, acting and dance. (However, according to the Roman scholar Varro, there are (or at least were) three muses: Melete or Practice, born from the movement of water; Mneme or Memory, who makes a sound when striking the air; and Aoide or Song, who is embodied only in the human voice). They are sometimes referred to as water nymphs,

"associated with the springs of Helicon and with Pieris. It was said that the winged horse Pegasus touched his hooves to the ground on Helicon, causing four sacred springs to burst forth, from which the muses were born. Athena later tamed the horse and presented him to the muses." (Source: Wikipedia)

However, other stories conflict with this one vis-a-vis their genesis and parentage, including Zeus and Mnemosyne (goddess of memory) and Uranus (god of the Sky) and Gaia (goddess of the Earth), Zeus' grandparents.

The nine Muses are:

- Calliope, muse of epic poetry, whose emblem is the writing tablet;
- Clio, muse of history, whose emblem is scrolls;
- Erato, muse of love poetry, whose emblem is a lyre-like instrument called a cithara;
- Euterpe, muse of song and elegiac poetry, whose emblem is a flute-like instrument called an aulos;
- Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, whose emblem is the tragic mask;
- Polyhymnia, the muse of hymns, whose emblem is the veil;
- Terpsichore, the muse of dance, whose emblem is the lyre;
- Thalia, the muse of comedy, whose emblem is the comic mask;
- Urania, the muse of astronomy, whose emblem is the globe and compass.

The muses more or less covered all facets of the Arts, and were also associated with all forms of learning.

Now which Muses would influence me? Truth be told a lot of my poetic and literary endeavours have been inspired by women, particularly ones I've been in love/infatuated with. I think it's safe to assume that I'm not the only one. It is no accident that the Muses have traditionally been portrayed as beautiful women, and indeed that's how I imagine them, though no doubt for some they would alternatively assume a more masculine manifestation. Being an aspiring novelist, casual poet, history buff and at times having been something of the class clown, I guess the Muses that would impact me or have done so would be Calliope (assuming that "epic poetry" includes novels/novellas, etc), Clio, Erato and even Thalia (though this last one might be the subject of some debate).

May the Muses never turn their faces from me.
Kev Noir

The Art of Words

I have joined a couple of websites devoted to all things literary: The Art of Words:, and Duotrope's Digest: The latter will also help with getting published.

For those of you of a literary persuasion or with even the vaguest desire to write and create, I recommend the former for sure, and for publishing the latter is also well worth investigating.

Also posted in the_jester1.