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Issue 55 - Noir is the new black

Whisky Magazine Issue 55
April 2006


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Noir is the new black

Jefferson Chase delves in to some under the radar reading material

More often than it should, the best writing is that which flies under the radar screens of self-appointed literary experts. Case in point: paperback-original ‘noir fiction' in the United States. Reissues by the Black Lizard Press have helped revive interest in writers such as Jim Thompson, David Goodis and Cornell Woolrich. And the list doesn't stop there.

Nearly all the Black Lizard reissues I've read have been worth the trouble, including Richard Neely's Shattered. Originally published in 1969 by Ace Books under the much better title The Plastic Nightmare, this is a paranoid, erotic thriller reminiscent of early Brian DePalma or Christopher Nolan's excellent Memento.

Blockbuster director Wolfgang Petersen adapted it for first Hollywood feature, which should have increased Neely's fame. It didn't. An Internet search reveals only that Neely was born in 1930, worked in advertising and, in the word's of one blogger “has a cult-like following among certain fans.”

The story opens with the amnesiac victim of car accident, Dan Marriott, about to have the bandages cut off his surgically reconstructed face. His wife Judith whisks him straight from the hospital off to a recuperative vacation – and seduction – in Mexico. The problem is he has no memory of his relationship to her.

The mouth that closed on mine was soft but insistent, parted lips brushed with the salt and dampness of the sea. My eyes popped open and as quickly squeezed shut. My hand released the cigarette,...

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