Monday, October 05, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Carole Lombard!

Happy Anniversary, Carole Lombard! Born Jane Alice Peters (6 October 1908, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA - 16 January 1942, Table Rock Mountain, Nevada). She was nicknamed: The Profane Angel, The Hoosier Tornado and The Queen of Screwball Comedy.

Blonde, beautiful and spirited, Carole Lombard was, and still is to some, the finest satirical comedienne the screen has ever known, the embodiment of screwball comedy, the queen of the genre. A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, she was a working actress by 1929. A stint with Mack Sennett, the acknowledged "king of comedy" during the silent era, taught her the impeccable timing which was at the heart of her comedic genius.

In 1934, a golden opportunity arose for her: She took a trip on a train with the great John Barrymore, who was once quoted as saying that Lombard was one of the greatest actresses he had ever worked with. Under the guidance of producer/director Howard Hawks and with a great script by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Twentieth Century (Columbia, 1934) had scored big at the box office and made Carole Lombard a star. Though the blonde star mixed drama and comedy and did both with equal skill, the screwball comedy became her signature genre.

Her films include Hands Across the Table (1935) and The Princess Comes Across (1936), both from Paramount and co-starring Fred MacMurray, My Man Godfrey (Universal, 1936) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (RKO, 1941), a cross-section of the genre. Ernst Lubitsch directed Carole Lombard in her last film To Be or Not to Be (United Artists, 1942).

In his book Screwball - Hollywood's Madcap Romantic Comedies, Ed Sikov quotes director Mitchell Leisen describing the effect Lombard had on MacMurray: "Carole was a great help to Fred. She'd get him down on the floor and sit on his chest and say, "Now be funny, Uncle Fred, or I'll pluck your eyebrows out." -"The Art of the Screwball Comedy: Madcap Entertainment from the 1930s to Today" (2013) by Doris Milberg

During her time under Pathé contract, Lombard adopted the salty vocabulary of a dockworker, and according to her brother Fred Peters, she did it deliberately as a way to level the playing field with the men then in charge, most of whom were wolves at the least, with some unashamed sexual predators thrown in. In short, she intended harsh language to shut down unwanted advances and she wore it like a suit of armor. Her friend Jill Winkler once asked Lombard about the swearing. Carole replied, “Oh, that’s not me swearing, honey. That’s Carole Lombard. Jane Peters would never dream of using language like that.” Carole believed that Jane Peters couldn’t hold her own in Hollywood, whereas brash Carole Lombard could. As she once admitted in an interview, and it was a telling statement, “I try to be what people want me to be.”

Carole counted among her lovers in the early Paramount days a young scriptwriter named Preston Sturges, who had done the screenplay for one her pictures, Fast and Loose (1930). The highly intelligent, well-to-do, 10-years-older Sturges fit Lombard’s bill, as did fading publishing mogul Horace Liveright, 25 years her senior, with whom she had a short liaison before Paramount dismissed him. Said Lombard, “I rapidly outgrew even older boys and gradually my escorts became men. Mature men. They were the only ones who could talk my language....”

Carole appeared in a few light comedy features before stepping up to an “A” or major studio picture called Man of the World, starring one of the hottest leading men in Hollywood, William Powell. Sparks flew between Lombard and Powell from the first rehearsals, and a healthy infatuation catapulted them to the nearest bedroom. He was almost 40; she was 22, making pictures by day and playing the field by night, and determined not to marry. “I think marriage is dangerous,” she told him. “It spoils beautiful friendships that might have lasted for years.”

Anchored by a magnificent Paramount Pictures contract negotiated by his Hollywood superagent, Myron Selznick, Powell had the means to woo Lombard, and he didn’t kid around with that wooing. Soon, she learned the true power of the mature man, if not with the imported perfume or the diamond encrusted jade cigarette case, then surely with the Cadillac for Christmas. She tried to tell him: Sex was fine, but couldn’t they agree to leave marriage out of the discussion?

She was cast with Powell again in another romantic drama, this one called Ladies’ Man. The fact that the young ingénue and the older sophisticate were now constant companions and obvious bedmates earned space in fan magazines and newspaper columns. The wedding took place at the end of June 1931, and the happy couple sailed off for a Hawaiian honeymoon. And then things went to hell right away. Suddenly, Bill and Carole were no longer workplace comrades with a standing date for lunch. Just after popular melodrama queen Kay Francis followed William Powell’s path from Paramount to Warner Bros. because she sensed payroll might not be met, Paramount went bankrupt.

Lombard, then a modest star but hardly a household name, was saved from unemployment only by the new ironclad contract that Myron had just negotiated for her. Paramount started shopping her around town to see if another studio wanted to assume her contract, but the attachment of a shark like Myron Selznick to Lombard’s name assured lukewarm interest. She ended up on a one-shot loan-out at the Columbia studios on nearby Gower Street and portrayed a hooker in a risqué pre-Code drama called Virtue (1932), which co-starred Mayo Methot, who would meet and then marry struggling actor Humphrey Bogart a few years later.

In May 1934, she headlined the article, “Carole Lombard Tells Why Hollywood Marriages Can’t Succeed” for Motion Picture magazine. With the brashness of youth, she shrugged that it might be easy for the garden-variety housewife “to put a fence around her heart,” but in the picture business, a woman was constantly in front of cameras with desirable men by the dozen and required to “syndicate her charm.” Powell, a man 16 years her senior whom she called “Popsie,” she confessed to marriage making the walls press in around her until she found herself “breathless with the loss of freedom.”With William Brimming with frustration, Lombard stated flatly that the Powell-Lombard exercise in marriage had been “a waste of time—his and mine.” Trouble was, they liked each other; they always would.

Noel Fairchild Busch from Life magazine referred to Clark Gable as the love of her life in interviews with Lombard for an October 1938 cover story. The story goes that Carole’s snippy response about Gable was to say that Russ Columbo, not Gable, was her great love, “and that is most definitely off the record.” But her actions five years earlier, viewed through the prism of Columbo’s anguished letters, speak loudly about who loved whom, and how much. During summer 1934, Carole got to
know the Colombo family with its intense Italian culture and found herself at sea.

She wasn’t Catholic; she had no desire to become Catholic. Columbo was learning that maybe he should distance himself from his ethnic heritage or he might risk hitting a glass ceiling in Hollywood. On Friday, August 31, Russ and Carole attended a sneak preview of his new picture Wake Up and Dream. On Saturday morning, Carole drove two hours up to Lake Arrowhead for some R&R. Lombard had just wrapped the only picture of her career made at MGM studios, The Gay Bride, and was, as usual, coming down with something. The next day she relaxed in the Arrowhead sunshine and finally began to unwind. Then came a phone call out of the blue: Russ Columbo had been shot.

When asked what it would have been like for a woman to meet Clark Gable, actress Ursula Theiss (Robert Taylor's second wife) described it this way: “He would have made you feel twice the woman than you think you are, because he did like the ladies. Intellectually, you might have expected more of him, but you would have been charmed…. He would have given all the attention you expected, and more.”

Underneath Gable’s charisma, that million-dollar smile and those sparkling gray eyes, was his desire not to have attention directed at what he knew to be a wounded, vulnerable soul. A divorce (Lombard’s), a shooting death (Columbo’s), an Oscar (Gable’s), a separation (also Gable’s), and three and-a-half years later, both were ready. They struck up a conversation at the Victor Hugo during the White Mayfair Ball, sparks flew, and neither looked back from that night on. Lombard had matured quite a bit, and Clark found a lot behind those topaz blue Lombard eyes. Clark found in Carole an answer to life’s romantic mystery that he hadn’t known previously, even with Joan Crawford.

Lombard managed to be as down to earth as the lemon trees, and she had this odd quality to her that he couldn’t begin to figure out, but it was a quality he liked. A lot. Carole Lombard had the capacity to love, not like a sucker, not like some doormat. She was an honest-to-God warm human being. Somehow, a real live woman had managed to survive in Hollywood and he had found her. -"Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3" (2013) by Robert Matzen

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Ida Lupino's "Outrage": the sexist banality of evil

"Outrage" (1950) on TCM, October 6, 2015 at 09:45 PM - A young woman who has just become engaged has her life completely shattered when she is raped while on her way home from work. Director: Ida Lupino, Producer: Collier Young, Screenplay: Collier Young, Malvin Wald & Ida Lupino, Cinematography: Archie Stout, Louis Clyde Stoumen, Cast: Mala Powers (Ann Walton), Tod Andrews (Bruce Ferguson), Robert Clarke (Jim Owens), Raymond Bond (Eric Walton), Lillian Hamilton (Mrs. Walton), Rita Lupino (Stella Carter).

In the documentary A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) the influential director singles out the films that best define the dark and menacing genre of film noir. Among them is Ida Lupino's Outrage (1950), a film that has none of the usual noir trappings of murder, gunplay and bank heists. It is, instead, a personal tale of one woman's attempts to cope with the psychological effects of having been raped. In Scorsese's words, the film is "a subdued behavioral study that captures the banality of evil in an ordinary small town," not exactly how one normally defines noir. And few films captured the post-WWII zeitgeist of noir more effectively than Outrage.

Working late to earn extra money for her upcoming marriage, Ann Walton (Mala Powers) is stalked one night by the proprietor of a snack wagon (Albert Mellen), whose previous efforts to flirt with Ann had been unsuccessful. Unable to identify her attacker, Ann attempts to resume a life of normalcy, but is unable to endure the curious stares of her neighbors and co-workers. In some ways, Outrage clearly bears the earmarks of noir. The stalking sequence is filled with the angular compositions and encroaching shadows that define the genre's visual form, yet Lupino avoids some of the typical methods of generating suspense. Instead of burying the scene under an overwrought orchestral score, the scene is largely silent, which only compounds the tension.

Once Ann is attempting to start her life anew, there is very little attention paid to the search for the culprit. In some ways this is another diversion from the conventions of noir, which tend to focus upon the machinations of crime and punishment. But equally important to the genre is the psychological torment and confusion that cloud its characters' perspectives. Ann's inner turmoil is just as engrossing as any criminal investigation would be, and Lupino clearly wants to show that capturing the rapist would do little to ease Ann's pain and confusion, which is likely to linger well after the closing credits have run.

Lupino's unwillingness to conclude the film with a trite happy ending that magically restores its characters to normalcy is one of Outrage's many special achievements. But escaping the conventionality of screen drama was one of Lupino's ongoing objectives as a writer/producer/director.

Ida Lupino named her production company Emerald Productions, after her mother, Connie Emerald. Her ambition was to produce films that broached subjects generally avoided by the Hollywood mainstream. In addition to Outrage's careful treatment of rape, Lupino's films addressed such unconventional topics as bigamy (The Bigamist, 1953), unwed motherhood (Not Wanted, 1949), polio (Never Fear, 1949) and even the corruption of sports (Hard, Fast and Beautiful, 1951). The slightly ragtag feel of Lupino's films, coupled with their often sensational subject matter, has caused Lupino to be recently dubbed "Queen of the B's." Source:

“Outrage,” a Hollywood movie from 1950, looks intimately, painfully, and analytically at what we now know to call rape culture. It was directed by Ida Lupino, who is familiar as one of the hard-edged and worldly-wise actresses of the forties and fifties (I’d especially recommend “The Man I Love,” “On Dangerous Ground,” “While the City Sleeps,” and “The Big Knife”), but she was also one of the great directors of the time.

“Outrage” is a special artistic achievement. Lupino approaches the subject of rape with a wide view of the societal tributaries that it involves. She integrates an inward, deeply compassionate depiction of a woman who is the victim of rape with an incisive view of the many societal failures that contribute to the crime, including legal failure to face the prevalence of rape, and the over-all prudishness and sexual censoriousness that make the crime unspeakable in the literal sense and end up shaming the victim. Lupino’s camera moves slowly toward the floor and parts the dancers, leaving them behind and leaving Ann isolated, as the movie—and Ann herself—contemplate the incommensurable emotional distance that separates her, seemingly definitively, from the realm of regular lovers. Source:

Friday, October 02, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Leo McCarey!

Happy Anniversary, Leo McCarey! Born Thomas Leo McCarey (3 October 1896, Los Angeles, USA - 5 July 1969, Santa Monica), he was one of the most influential screwball film directors, involved in nearly 200 movies, the most well known today being Duck Soup, Make Way for Tomorrow, The Awful Truth, Going My Way and An Affair To Remember. French director Jean Renoir once said that no other Hollywood director understood people better than Leo McCarey. He is among an elite group of eight directors who have won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (Orig/Adapted). The others are Billy Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, James L. Brooks, Peter Jackson, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

McCarey directed 6 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Ralph Bellamy, Irene Dunne, Maria Ouspenskaya , Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Bergman. Crosby and Fitzgerald won for their performances in "Going My Way" (1944). Orson Welles said of the film "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) that "It would make a stone cry", and rhapsodized about his enthusiasm for the film in his series of interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, "This Is Orson Welles". In Newsweek Magazine, Errol Morris named "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) his number one most important film, stating "The most depressing movie ever made, providing reassurance that everything will definitely end badly."

Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers cope with love, laughter, and war-themed Nazi intrigue in this comedy/mystery directed with panache by Leo McCarey, Once Upon a Honeymoon. An American burlesque girl intent on social climbing unknowingly marries a Nazi in the guise of an Austrian Baron. When an American radio reporter tracks the couple down to investigate, she inadvertently falls in love with the reporter instead.

Ginger Rogers demonstrates satin double-breasted jumpsuit (Once Upon a Honeymoon, 1942)

Like all McCarey heroes, Lucy believes, as in the song from Love Affair, that “wishing can make it so,” which goes to the heartbeat of Western civilization. Insistently, she makes the best of the hand she is dealt. In contrast to the usherette in the theater earlier, who complained that the guy in the film playing there was a “rat,” Lucy admires the way “the girl believed . . . no matter how black things looked.” Indeed, when Lucy admonishes Rhoda—“When you're seventy . . . about the only fun you have left is pretending that there ain't any facts to face"—we pity her, but what we take for weakness turns out to be strength. In attending to Bark, Lucy makes their last hours joyful and full when they could have been unrelieved agony. Source:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Noir & the American Dream's Dark Side, Mr. Robot Season 2 Heads-Up

In the 1950 film noirs, all the women who had been strong powerful individuals before the war, or during the war, like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck, were now suddenly playing victims - females terrified by a mere phone call. The message being: stay in line, or you might be brought in for questioning. At worst, you could be investigated and interrogated on television for un-American activities, or at best, judged by your neighbor.

The fictional noir characters on screen weren't participating in this societal model in any way, shape or form. Whether they were the criminals, or the private dicks chasing them, or the showgirls, or the molls, or the mysterious widows, they were all refusing to play house. Many people who should have only chased criminals and chorines might have been happy with only that. Some should have only hung at the racetrack and had dinner with friends. Or others should have spent time mostly talking on the telephone, dancing, and doing their nails.

The pressure was so great to live in a perfect 1950s television family that, by 1958, Americans finally believed they had the dream overall in the nation and film noir became far less popular as a form of relief from conformity. That was until 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, which showed there was a very healthy dose of the darkness still out there after all. The shock of Kennedy's death blew the fantasy of how family life will protect you, and the nation, all to hell.

Film noir characters are primarily emotion driven. Auteur Stanley Kubrick said only two emotions drive them: desire and threat. I would add adrenaline. Noir characters get bored easily. Adrenaline is a physical addiction and not necessarily a desire. But as long as those in the burbs question their static lifestyles, and they wonder internally if the sacrifices they make for that peace are worth it, or worse, suspect they have given up their coolness for stability, there will always be noirs to serve the explorations of their own natures. Source:

Film Noir and the American Dream — The Dark Side of Enlightenment: A.M. Karimi has suggested that noir protagonists “are the negation of the American Dream.” These toughened protagonists, adrift in a world they do not fully understand, remain constrained by their circumstances and “dark” pasts even as they seek the transcendent status promised by the American Dream. Yet by the Archimedean logic of enlightenment, toughness is also a self-defeating strategy, blocking one from further enlightenment in a cycle that may be conceptualized as “the eternal return of the same,” where toughness must be constantly performed, a self-imposed boundary only transcended at the price of a loss of identity status — the noir protagonist is frequently a traveler on the byway of urban technological culture.

And unlike, for example, screwball comedies such as The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941) or Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941), where movement up the social ladder equates to personal success, if a noir character moves from low to high cultural status, he or she often remains unchanged, discovering that life at the top is as rotten as it is at the bottom. In a world where life at the top is no better than below, and where upward mobility offers little chance of cosmopolitan enlightenment, the progress myth appears dethroned. As discussed by Leo Marx (in The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America), Jefferson linked the purifying qualities of the American natural landscape to the “naturally” superior character of American citizenship.

Nevertheless, films such as Detour, Gun Crazy and The Killing still convey something of the polyvalent contexts within which character and environment intersect, anticipating Michel de Certeau’s observation that “each individual is a locus in which an incoherent and often contradictory plurality of relational determinations interact.”

Several noirs also imply that “natural” beauty is a power flowing from good luck — hence the “beautiful” Lauras, Johnnys and Gildas escape the body bag. It follows that, within the misogynist logic of The Big Heat, the errant Debbie Marsh, also denoted as beautiful, must be disfigured so that she then can be killed.

The post-war period witnesses the emergence of an economic model connecting identity with consumption. The act of consumption increasingly is linked to the production of one’s individual identity as a shiny commodity without a past. The past, whether tainted by fated indiscretion or polished by nostalgia, occupies a less and less central role in the new consumer economy than in an earlier pre-war economy predicated on an understanding of personal identity as productive, responsible, and continuous in time.

An identity too firmly linked to a past becomes superfluous, and films such as Double Indemnity, Laura, and Sorry, Wrong Number, with their fatalistic emphasis on past mistakes coupled to a fascination with the complexities of characters’ motivation, are on the pivot point marking this shift. These characters “strike a pose.” Yet the resulting performances are less about the existential ideal that “what I am is for me to decide” than they are commodity-identities revealing that the absurd price of toughness is loss of intimacy.

If noir toughness depicts a Hollywood recognition of an individual’s relative powerlessness, they frequently are depicted as seeing themselves as rotten or losers or both. The protagonists are often out of step with the values of postwar mass culture, and at their best a number of these films question the socio-political contexts within which individual political realization is unequally organized. This remains a critical intervention largely absent in current Hollywood film. —"Multicultural Film: Essays" (2006) by Ken Hillis

Mr. Robot stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater and Portia Doubleday will be appearing at the 2015 New York Comic Con in a press panel on 9 October 2015. Maybe the fans will get more clarity on the season 2 storyline, maybe the network will release a teaser?

Sam Esmail shed some light on what fans can expect from Mr Robot in season 2: "I wanted the story of Mr. Robot to be Elliot actually accomplishing his goal, setting the world into chaos. What would happen to society if something like this occurred where, basically, if the consumer debt industry were to be erased? To me, that canvas was something I was interested in exploring so, for me, that's what that last scene sets up. We're about to watch Rome burn. That's the world Elliot's going to enter next season," he said. Source:

"Angela's character arc is really fascinating because she's the path of the American dream. She is the sort of person that has the mentality of, if you work hard enough, you'll get the big job offers, you'll get the big job promotions, and you'll work your way up the ladder. If you want to affect change, you do it within the system because the system allows for that, allows the younger generation to come in and influence society, and the point is to have a bottom-up strategy of having change come from the younger generation. That, to me, is a very interesting parallel to have running through the series in contrast with Elliot, who's very much trying to affect change from outside the system." Source:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Noir and Technology: Fight Club, Mr. Robot, Metaphor of Sadness

“Noir is almost always about paranoia, eavesdropping, being spied on, loners and how do you catch them,” film noir expert, Dr. Foster Hirsch of Brooklyn College, tells The Creators Project. “What changes is, of course, state of the art. Technology is so different now than it was in the immediate post-war period. We’re more sophisticated. And I think what that does is it creates a greater sense of solitude and privacy and that is a breeding ground for pathological noir characters.”

The ubiquity of cell phone cameras and the nonchalance of modern day surveillance allow us to live out the narrative that classical noirs of the 40s and 50s foreshadowed. Today we’re living in the most epic of noir films, where modern technologies allow every person to record and be recorded, where surveillance is an afterthought, and no one seems to mind. Classic noirs from the Red Scare illustrate this permeable sense of unease. But now, according to Dr. Hirsch, “Everyone is under surveillance and you don’t suspect the communists as in the past, it can be anyone. [There is] no privacy. People are afraid of identity theft, computers are vulnerable.” Therefore everyone is vulnerable. When Ebert wrote that article 20 years ago, only 9% of Americans used computers daily, today only 15% don’t.

“Technology and noir have a long history together,” Hirsch continues. “Technology changes, but it doesn’t change the narrative patterns of the noir genre.” In fact, it heightens them. We’ve known for years now that technology has the potential to isolate, and that isolation breeds all those nasty inner demons that are generally checked by adequate and healthy socialization in childhood and adolescence. But did we ever consider that we are the personified products of a neo-noir lifestyle? John Donne’s famous poem, "No Man is an Island," now seems eerily prescient and a creed to revisit.

According to Ebert, “Noir thrives on pessimism and fear—and on guilt, the feeling that we have ourselves to blame for our troubles.” The 21st century existence is one shaped by Snowden, Salgado, and widespread personal surveillance. One that feels inherently frenetic, highlighted by loss (of nature, privacy) and one that, were Ebert to have reassessed the noir genre before his death in 2013, plays perfectly into his hand. Source:

In Fight Club (1999), you have Edward Norton’s Narrator; in Mr. Robot, you have Rami Malek’s Elliot. They’re not so different: both want a different world, one free of the tyranny of giant corporations, but neither are sure how to go about changing it. They each live largely solitary existences, have damaged love interests, and keep charismatic revolutionaries as mentor-companions. They also share one other key trait: undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Mr. Robot took the template for Fight Club and did it better. Flagrant misogyny isn’t the only issue of Fight Club’s that Mr. Robot corrects in its version of the story. Where Mr. Robot has affection for its characters, Fight Club has little to none. Where Mr. Robot attempts to give the audience some understanding of social anxiety and mental illness, Fight Club uses it as a narrative device and—after the reveal—mines the Narrator’s schizophrenia for comedy.

I’ll go further and argue that Mr. Robot’s phenomenal Rami Malek makes for a more interesting lead than Fight Club’s Edward Norton, an actor likened to Robert De Niro despite never giving a performance to warrant such a comparison; that Mr. Robot makes violence appear abhorrent, whereas Fight Club appears to relish in it. Fight Club is a solipsistic, middle-aged male fantasy, where Mr. Robot is a more welcoming, earnest plea with the world to wake up and save itself. Mr. Robot’s premiere season in isolation remains Fight Club’s better, a more compassionate, genuine, open call-to-arms. It’s Fight Club 2.0, a 2015 upgrade for a new generation; it’s David Fincher’s alleged classic taken, improved upon, and perfected. Source:

Mr Robot has much that is stunning. Cinematographer Tod Campbell composes his shots with rigorous beauty, conveying Elliot’s isolation and paranoia with expanses of negative space washed in limpid blues and greys, pushing Malek’s body to one side like an afterthought. His other favourite shot is a close-up on Malek’s wonderfully expressive face. The Trent Reznor-ish musical score and the sound design that pushes Elliot’s rambling inner monologue to the fore are both superb. Best of all is Malek’s twitchy, intensely sympathetic performance as a damaged genius trying and failing to connect. Source:

Imagine a fast-moving computer game set in the black-and-white environment of a 1940s detective movie and you'll begin to get some idea of the mixed metaphors that fill the air in K.W. Jeter's difficult but ultimately rewarding futuristic thriller. Jeter, who also writes a series of novels based on the popular Blade Runner film about apocalyptic Los Angeles, centers Noir in that same city, now a dark jewel of the dominant Pacific Rim. A detective named McNihil has had his eyes surgically altered so that everything looks like an early Bogart movie to him. "Gray newspapers with significant headlines--'Dewey Defeats Truman,' 'Pearl Harbor Bombed'--moldered in the gutters, or were nudged along the broken sidewalks by the same night wind that cut through McNihil's jacket," Jeter writes about the scene of a plane crash where the detective has been summoned by a corporate villain. Aided by a young woman called November, whose fingertips are alive with lethal magnetic currents, McNihil brings his--and Jeter's--unique noir vision to bear on a world that for all its weirdness is the ultimately believable extension of our present-day nightmares. Dick Adler Source:

The living woman’s name was November. Not the name her mother had given her, but the one she’d given herself and that her friends, when she’d still had a pack to run with, had endorsed as fitting. Snow touched her brow, whiter than the yellow-tinged bone beneath the dead woman’s parchment skin. Ice walked through the ventricles of her heart and down her pale arms, not as an indication of cruelty —for she wasn’t cruel, even when her living came at the price of others’ breath —but as the metaphor of sadness. When she had nothing better to do — when she was far enough ahead in her accounts that she didn’t have to worry about her own death, at least for a little while— she could ride down to the bottom of the Gloss, to the Pacific Rim’s southern crossing, where the trains worked their way across ice floes and polar fields, past the great sliding glaciers and over the storm-lashed seas. November felt sorry for the man —his name was McNihil— in her usual, nonempathic way. An intellectual process, like watching one ice floe grind implacably against another, the white fields cracking and splintering as though alive but not sentient. To be fatal and noncaring at the same time; it just worked that way. The ice surged and hammered against itself. —"Noir" (1999) by K.W. Jeter