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Friday, April 1, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday 4-1-11: "Gray Eyes, Grave Matters"

(Source image: "Dita's Bear" by Sean McCall)


“Lew Wainwright. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, please come in.”

She had cloudy gray eyes, peering at me through a smoky haze. And a voice that sounded like it was lost at the bottom of a well: frail, timid. She wore a drab dress that tried but failed to hide her figure. I admired the architecture as she walked ahead of me.

“Drink, Mr. Wainwright?”


The neck of the bottle chattered against the glasses as she poured. She was nervous about something, but damned if I could tell what. She downed half hers in a gulp and wandered away across the room.

“Mr. Wainwright...”

“Make it Lew, please.”

“Lew, then,” she agreed. “Thank you for agreeing to help me.”

“I haven't.”

She looked confused. “But...”

“I said I'd come out and listen. I still haven't heard anything about what's eating you.”

“All right, then,” she said softly. “Here.”

I whistled. The photograph she'd handed me showed her in a position only a husband should see.


“Yes,” she whispered. “I want these destroyed. If you can find them, and the man who took them...”  She shivered, then: “You can have what you see here.”

I laughed. “That's the bunk, sweetheart. What's to keep me from taking it right now?”

And she shrank back into the recesses of the sofa as I approached, gun already in hand.

Your challenge for today was to use the picture above and write a flash fiction of 100-200 words. Additionally, I provided a key phrase I wanted to see used somewhere in the submission:

"...smoky haze..."

Nobody's checking word counts, or for the key phrase, but you're only cheating yourself if you break the rules. Unless you're doing it to earn a spanking (in which case, see me after class).

Special Bonus Director's Commentary Track:

I've been reading entirely too much crime noir lately -- Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Cornell Woolrich -- and so when I went hunting through my stash of FFF pics and saw this boudoir-style pic, I was immediately catapulted into a seedy world where all femmes are fatale, all private dicks are world-weary, and everyone double-crosses everyone else. I was on fire with possibilities, and I came up with several little tales. Only one problem: I'd forgotten about the short word count. I simply couldn't shoehorn it down to anything less than the 248 words I have here without leaving out important bits. So, for the first time I've gone over my own word limit.

That said, I do mostly like how this turned out. Some of the sleuths in crime noir fiction are almost as scummy as the criminals they hunt. Sam Spade, for example, has an affair with his partner's wife, strikes a woman, beats up a suspect for information, lies to the police, and laughs when the woman who loves him is sent to jail. The world isn't black and white in crime noir, but shades of gray. I wanted to reflect some of that -- a private dick who decided to take his reward before he'd wrapped up the case the dame brought him. His first name is a nod to Macdonald's Lew Archer, one of the best of the crime noir series.

Writing in this style is damned hard, though. Good crime noir is sparse, terse, barely descriptive. It's not just the dialogue and the phrasings, it's the atmosphere in general. I can enjoy the hell out of reading it, but I am never really happy with the results when I try to emulate it myself. Hopefully you do like it.

Please note that I am no longer collecting the participants list. If you are playing along this week, please leave your link below using the widget. It will appear in the text of the post itself, not in the comments, so everyone that's playing will be listed here. This frees me from having to chase people down to find out if they're playing or update the Friday post several times for late entries. Your cooperation is appreciated.

In any case, the participants list is below. Go check them out, and thanks to all who played along.

Check back here on Monday for the next challenge! And if you have any photos or artwork you'd like to see in a future challenge, please send them my way. 

-- PB


W said...

Do I get points for recognizing the style and the detective before I read the notes? Love the take on the pic. I think there may be a lot of 'softer' selections this time. Thanks for a lovely pic!

Naughty Lexi said...

I can hear the music in the background, the soft hiss of a tired soundtrack, maybe the faint projector noise in an almost-deserted theater. Noir to me has always been film noir. As a lover of the printed word, that's vaguely embarrassing and somewhat saddening to me; I'd really like to remember books rather than films. But there it is. Unlike many other circumstances, this leaped immediately to film. Still, as a film, it's very nice too. Makes the photograph a part of the story without the story being the photograph.

Anonymous said...

I loved Dick Tracy when I was just hitting my teens and really got into Sam Spade during my mid teens. He was a mental bad-ass.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh! Enjoyed your crime noir story. Very cool.

Lusting Lola said...

I loved it! Great middle-of-the-story piece. Makes me wonder what exactly came before, but even more, what exactly will come afterward, which I think is perfect for FFF.

France said...

Loved it too! But over the word limit?! Drop your pants and bend over, PB! ;)

Advizor54 said...

I did my grizzled detective bit last week with dancer on the boat, but this one has the same feel. I finished "The Long Goodbye" by Raymond Chandler last month so I've had that voice in my head for weeks.

And Lexi, there is nothing wrong with remembering movies as well as books. Movies are all about words set free to move.

Nice take on the pic this week Panser.

Silly Mistress said...

I have to agree, I like it as well. It leaves a lot of room for the mind to wander. : )

Cheeky Minx said...

Everything about your sexy noir vignette speaks to me, PB...

The Panserbjørne said...

Wordwytch: Sure, you get the bonus points. You can redeem them for fun and prizes! :) I'm glad you liked this one.

Lexi: Awesome, you definitely caught the vibe I was hoping for. If you saw it as film noir, that tells me you got a nice detailed pic in your mind's eye, which is just fine with me. I do recommend checking out some of the authors I mentioned, though, if you're ever looking for more reading material.

Pocket Rockettz: Spade is definitely a bad-ass in all the ways that matter. Thanks for dropping by!

Sweets: Thanks so much! I'm happy it was to your taste.

Lola: That's kind of the fun with these vignettes, isn't it? Coming in in the middle (or at the end) and filling in the blanks. Thanks!

France: Heh. Your place or mine, sweetheart? :)

Advizor: "The Long Goodbye" is still my favorite Chandler work. It's fun to try and emulate that voice, but I make no pretensions of being as good at it as he was. Glad you liked, though!

Silly Mistress: I do try to provide lots of different avenues down which the mind can wander. :) Thanks!

Minx: I had an idea it was right down your (dark) alley. Glad to see I was right. Thanks so much!

-- PB