Slaying Genre: Notoriously Noir
Bonnie Tyler likes to sing about needing a hero, but me, I need a big bad, a notorious nasty, a femme fatale. Someone who treads on the dark side and isn’t ashamed to admit it.
I’ve never been one to root for the good guy; I’d rather cheer someone who’s had to wrestle some serious demons (and has perhaps become one). This is why I love noir: there’s always someone sinister (or at the very least, vengeful) afoot.
In the past few years, I’ve been enjoying a mini noir revival. And the extra cool thing about this recent noir renaissance is that it’s all about the ladies. Women writers have been making noir fresh again. And by fresh, I mean dark, dank, and dangerous.
Here are a few of my recent favorites. Tell me yours in the comments!
In her bestselling novel, Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn gives us some of the most reprehensible human beings you’ll ever meet. It’s the female lead, though, that steals the show. Amy’s basic character and motivations seem simple at first, but become so twisted and complex that the reader starts to doubt that even she knows who she is or what she’s capable of. Flynn risks our sympathies by drastically changing Amy (or indeed how we are led to see Amy) and the game midway through the novel, and it’s this that makes her female protagonist fascinating and dangerous, both as a player in the narrative and as a character choice. It certainly had me devouring page after page like a starving woman, wanting to see what insanities this character had cooked up next.
Christa Faust has taken femme fatales normally reserved for the back alley and the motel room and subverted their plotlines, giving them more dimension, motivation, and a story of their own, where power doesn’t just belong to wise-cracking and patronizing gumshoes. In her books Money Shot and Choke Hold, Faust gives us feisty Angel Dare, a protagonist that takes no prisoners. What really punches the reader in the gut and keeps them reading is Angel’s voice, the hard edge that promises revenge and delivers in spades.
Another writer that can serve up the unreliable and disreputable and oh-so-compelling is British author Cathi Unsworth. Her novel, Weirdo, takes us in a completely different but no less harrowing direction: that of a bullied girl convicted of committing the ritualistic murder of a school mate. The narrative takes us deep into a past that most in the novel would like to stay buried, and gives us a taste of the dangers of small community insularity in the face of exposure and blame
And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve got talented women writing noir in anthologies like Weird Noir. It just goes to show: you can’t keep a baddie down, especially when women are at the helm.
*Come discuss noir, dark fiction, and baddies with me in my Blood and Bones: Horror and Dark Fiction course at Grub Street on Saturday, March 30!
*Print by Niagara Detriot. Order her work here: niagaradetroit.com
KL Pereira's chapbook, Impossible Wolves was published by Deathless Press is 2013. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are forthcoming or appear in The Drum Literary Magazine, Shimmer Zine, Lightning Cake, The Golden Key, Innsmouth Free Press, Innsmouth Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, The Medulla Review, Bitch Magazine and other publications. Pereira’s work on fairy tales, sexuality, Wonder Woman, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are featured on Studio 360 and other radio programs, cited in numerous publications, and assigned in courses all over the United States and Canada. Find Pereira online on klpereira.com and @kl_pereira.See other articles by KL Pereira