In fiction, my “guilty pleasure” – for lack of a better term – is detective pulp fiction. Film noir, hard-boiled dialogue, the heavy bitter melodrama, and our protagonist, if one could call him that – the classic cliché Private Eye.
You know him. He’s too drunk too often, and smokes when he’s not; the streetlights angle starkly through the uneven blinds of his office; he’s lost a wife, a partner, or a brother; he lives on leftover pizza, coffee, and regret. He’s a cookie cutter, this man, stamping out a million replicas but I love him. I love to read him, and I love to write him. Complete with Chandler-esque similes.
One NaNoWriMo I indulged myself, and wrote a 50,000-word manuscript about a Private Eye and the woman he was investigating: one of those dames with legs all the way up, blood red lips, dark hair, a mysterious past. She worked for the Mob, winning men’s trust and leaving them dead in hotel rooms. My original intention was to have her throw herself off some balcony when he finally had her cornered, and he, crippled by his guilt, would end it all with lead. I was inspired by an image from an early episode of CSI. The second, I think, when Sarah turns up. Grissom looks up at the building from which a man has plummeted, and I liked the angle, and thought of my P.I. – insert your own hard-boiled sounding name here… I rather like Sam Malone as a P.I. name but of course he owned that bar, Cheers – looking up at her, all art deco and a red dress, and she meets his eye before she lets go. And he watches as they scrape her off the pavement, goes back home with a pistol and a bottle.
But in the end I couldn’t do it. They needed each other, craved each other, and ended up in each other’s arms, and I couldn’t kill my darlings, not then. Perhaps I will, one day soon – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – rewrite it so the damn thing makes sense as a cohesive whole instead of a ramshackle mess of drunken encounters and long, traumatised inner monologues. Maybe I’ll find snippets I like especially, and post them here, especially if I have to cull them from the novel. It could do, I’m afraid, with a complete rewriting. And it can’t be the end, this time, when they decide love conquers all, and throw it all away for each other. That’s not the right way to end it. They knew, when they had each other, that it wouldn’t last. They knew, and pretended they didn’t, and I let them. I pretended too.
But I so wanted to give them their happily-ever-after. Just for a little while.