Thinking a lot about detectives these days - yep, working on a new novel. After dancing around it for a long time, I've decided to write what I love. Now, I do love a beautifully written short story (Saunders, Carver, and Munro), and a profound complex novel (DeLillo, Marquez), but there are times when I just need to crack a cold one, clean my 45, and dip into some seedy office where they work for 50 bucks a day plus expenses. Or whatever the going rate is. As a kid, and a teen, watching the various TV detectives, I always wondered about the expenses - what exactly did that cover? Meals? Copious amounts of cocktails and cigarettes? Car rentals, which were always bashed to hell. And could you make any money being a P.I.? Rockford lived in a trailer after all.
I've decided to take a shot at writing something that would fall into that P.I. vein. I say the vein, because knowing my style, I'll probably drift out of it. So I am channeling a lot of my favorites, from movies, TV and novels. I came to the novels a bit late (though, as a kid, I loved anything by Donald Westlake). In TV and movies, for sure I loved the coolness of Rockford (and really James Garner in anything), along with Burt Reynolds, not much of a P.I., except maybe in Shamus, but he had the right vibe in his good ole boy gator movies (we called them swamp movies). There were others, cheesy Monday night movies at my small town theatre - again, I remember the mood more than the plots and even actors. I have a hard time describing the cool-factor here, sort of a laid back, it don't matter to me attitude - and sure, I can catch the bad guy and solve the case if you need me to... right after this whiskey sour.
Throughout this, the guy who keeps popping into my head is Elliot Gould, for all his film work in the 70's, but mostly one movie: Altman's The Long Goodbye. Now, I know Altman pissed off a lot of Philip Marlowe fans when he made that movie - but for me, it hits the vibe square on. Maybe, I'm not a purist, and I admit to an unhealthy obsession with all things Altman for a number of years, but man, Gould as Marlowe was it. Of course, he had the amazing Sterling Hayden to play off of. But when I recall the movie (and I need to watch it again), it's the sound, the colours, the bathed in California light, and laid back quality that comes back.
More in another post on the novels (and the influences there) - but for now, watch the trailer, maybe it will explain more than I can articulate. I think you'll have it by the soundtrack. And if you haven't watched this movie... well, you need to. Did I mention the music?