David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: noir

Cover of Oakland Noir by Eddie Muller

Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, on the Importance of Finding Empathy in Darkness

If you live in the Bay Area, which we did for many years, and you have a penchant for the dark side that draws you toward the underbelly of noir, you know Eddie Muller. He’s a legend. Let’s face it, you don’t get to be the Czar of Noir for nothing. So when we found out he was editing the new Oakland Noir, part of the great noir series by Akashic, we jumped at the chance to pick his dark brain about Oaktown, writing and the book business.

Read this interview on the HuffPost.

Photo of Eddie Muller wearing glasses and a hat, very noir

Eddie Muller

The Book Doctors: What are your earliest memories of being interested in noir? What were some of your favorite noirish books when you were going up, and why?

Eddie Muller: I’m of an earlier generation, pre-VCR. I was first drawn to noir by movies I’d see on Dialing for Dollars, weekdays afternoons when I’d cut school. Stuff like Thieves’ Highway and Cry of the City and The Big Heat. I started combing TV Guide to find movies with “Big,” “City,” “Street” and “Night” in the title. There’s a title: Big City Streets at Night. I’d watch that. The look of the films and the attitudes of the characters resonated with me. I was at the epicenter of the hippie movement in San Francisco, but I was intrigued by this earlier generation’s style and attitude.

In high school I started reading Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and the die was cast. In that way, I’m like virtually every other crime fiction writer. It’s amazing the influence those guys had, especially Chandler. His prose was intoxicating. Reading Hammett’s short stories made you want to be a detective. Reading Chandler made you want to be a writer. After that, you just start devouring everything. At a certain point I began distinguishing between mystery writers and crime writers. And I became less interested in the detective whodunnits and more fascinated by the noir stuff: Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Charles Willeford. Their books don’t resolve neatly. Things aren’t going to end well.

TBD: What are you currently reading?

EM: I’m looking forward to a couple of days off so I can read Paul Auster’s latest, 4321. I’ve seen some discouraging reviews, but I read everything of this. He’s my favorite living author. I enjoy how his mind works and I like how he translates it to the page.

TBD: What are some of your favorite noir classics, and again, why?

EM: Derek Raymond’s Factory series books are pretty great, especially I Was Dora Suarez. He really turned detective stories into noir literature. Forgive me for touting the obvious touchstones: Hammett’s big three: Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, and The Glass Key. Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Here’s the thing about crime fiction: you end up loving a writer’s body of work more than a single book. I like reading David Goodis, but I can’t say I like Cassidy’s Girl more than Nightfall. Same with Jim Thompson. Charles Willeford, The Burnt Orange Heresy. I like Highsmith’s Ripley novels. I like Highsmith in general. She still doesn’t get her due because, obviously, she was a woman writing in what’s perceived as a man’s genre. I had that bias once, as a younger and stupider man. Then I wised up. More guys should wise up.

Cover of Oakland Noir by Eddie Muller

Akashic

TBD: Having been published in San Francisco Noir, part of the Akashic series, I’m a big fan of these books. How did you become involved with Oakland Noir?

EM: Well, we were both in that San Francisco noir collection! I was sort of wondering when Johnny Temple, Akashic’s publisher, would get around to Oakland. I mean, seriously, how can you have Duluth Noir before Oakland Noir? As it turns out, Jerry Thompson, who’s a writer and bookseller in Oakland, had pitched Johnny on an Oakland Noir collection but hadn’t gotten a green light. Then Jerry approached me about co-editing the anthology—and I guess because Johnny and I had some history we got the go-ahead.

TBD: What was it like editing all these amazing writers?

EM: It was great! Jerry and I shared a vision of what we wanted the book to be—an accurate demographic reflection of the city. Meaning we wanted an appropriate gender/racial/ethnic mix to the stories. Which can be tricky. You want good well-conceived, well-written stories, not just stories featuring a black or Asian or Hispanic character. Let’s be honest: it’s a crap shoot. Jerry did the hard work of selecting most of the contributors, because he knew the literary landscape of Oakland; I pulled in a couple of my buddies, Kim Addonizio and Joe Loya. We had a vision of how the book should play out, but you can’t tell writers what to write. In the end, I was happy with the result. The reviewer for Publishers Weekly complained that some stories weren’t really noir, but the Kirkus reviewer understood completely: our mission was to reveal the city beneath the mainstream perceptions, to use genre fiction show sides of Oakland not usually seen.

TBD: What do you think separates great noir from everyday pulpy potboilers?

EM: Empathy. Great noir writing makes you feel and contemplate lives gone off the rails. That’s not entertaining for a lot of people, but to me it’s one of the purposes of art.

TBD: What exactly is a noircheologist? (Spell check really hated that word!)

EM: I dig through the past to rescue and revive this stuff. That’s the mission of the Film Noir Foundation, which I founded in 2006. We rescue and restore films, specifically noir, that have slipped through the cracks and disappeared. There are a lot of savvy small publishers who are noircheologists on the literary side, but I’m the guy when it comes to film. We recently resurrected a terrific 1956 noir film from Argentina, Los tallos amargos (The Bitter Stems), and preserved a sensational picture from 1952 called El vampiro negro; it’s an Argentine reworking of Fritz Lang’s M. I’m on a crusade now to show that film noir was not specifically an American thing.

TBD: You have one of the coolest nicknames around: “The Czar of Noir.” How did that come about? And how can I get a nickname that cool?

EM: A woman named Laura Sheppard, event coordinator at the Mechanic’s Institute Library in San Francisco, was introducing me one night. She was reading the far-too-lengthy bio I’d supplied—you do that when you’re young and trying too hard—and, frankly, I think she just got tired of it. So she said, “Hell, he’s just the czar of noir.” It’s been the gift that keeps on giving. If you want a cool nickname, I can put you in touch with Laura.

TBD: Will you ever get tired of noir?

EM: I don’t think so. Not once I realized there was far more to it than what was ascribed by the original scholars on the subject. It annoys some purists when you stretch the boundaries, but who cares? We sold out a week of shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York presenting virtually unknown film noir from Argentina. Akashic’s Noir series has been a fabulous way of getting new writers published and providing a valuable anthropological–literary experience. There’s been a long overdue rethinking of this terrain as strictly a male-only province. All good, as far as I’m concerned.

TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers in general, and writers of noir specifically?

EM: Understand that noir is not about the body count. It is often about violence—the psychological pressures that lead to it, and the inherent drama in trying to stem the tide. It bothers me when books and films featuring ugly people engaged in relentless killing are described as “noir.” It’s not. Those are just Tom and Jerry cartoons for post-adolescent boys. Not entertaining to me, and not of any significant value to the culture at large. I guess my advice would be “Aim a little higher.”

Eddie Muller is the world’s foremost authority on film noir. As founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation he is a leading figure in film restoration and preservation, and a familiar face and voice on the international film festival circuit, DVD special features and Turner Classic Movies, where he hosts Noir Alley every Sunday morning at 10am EST.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

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The Snow Leopard in Desire with James Joyce, Bram Stoker & Anne Rice

Much to my surprise, I discovered that my story The Snow Leopard has been chosen to be part of an anthology called Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories, chosen by the deliciously named Mariella Fristrup, and the Erotic Review, and published by Head of Zeus.  Is a great honor to have my story in bed with Patricia Highsmith, Alice Munro, DH Lawrence, Rudyard Kipling, Anais Nin, Roald Dahl, Henry Miller, Diana Gabaldon, Michel Faber, Guillaume, and the Marquis de Sade.  The Snow Leopard is one of my favorite pieces of writing, it was originally published in an anthology called San Francisco Noir, with the title Confessions of a Sex Maniac, which many people mistakenly thought was a piece of filthy non-fiction.  It also has become the centerpiece of the giant epic novel writing called The War of the Tenderloin.   And so it goes.

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Confessions of a Sex Maniac E-Book $0.99: “William Kotzwinkle, Jim Carroll & Tom Waits”

Confessions book

Purchase the Book

Paperback : Amazon.com
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New review of Confessions of a Sex Maniac: “In the tradition of William Kotzwinkle’s “The Fan Man” and Jim Carroll’s “Basketball Diaries” and “Forced Entries”, David Henry Sterry’s “Confessions of a Sex Maniac” has a fascinating and addicted-to-something main character that drives the narrative towards an explosive ending. Put some music behind it and you’d have a long and fine Tom Waits song. After hanging out with these characters for a while you might feel the distinct need to take a thorough shower. Intense and memorable.”

Excerpts

Featured Books by David Henry Sterry

chicken-10-year-anniversary-cover-198x300 Master-ceremonies-cover-199x300 essential hos
johns mort HobbyistFinalPRINTCover5.375x8.25inchesCMYK300dpi confessions

DANGEROUS DOLLS, BAD MEN & SMOKING GUNS: NIGHT OF NOIR & BURLESQUE AT THE STRAND

One of my favorite shows: Hitmen, dirty divas, tasseled ta-tas, and murder most foul! Master of ceremony David Henry Sterry, ex-Hollywood teenage rentboy and best-selling author of Chicken; Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys; and Confessions of a Sex Maniac, will ride herd over a night of literary darkness featuring the brightest lights writing about the blackest deeds, and fierce femme fatale’s flashing fairest flesh. Joining him are two burlesque legends. Jo “Boobs” Weldon is one of the great burlesque dancers of this or any time, Headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque, and author of The Burlesque Handbook. Jonny Porkpie is the Burlesque Mayor of New York, has performed all around the world, creator of Pinchbottom Burlesque, the “Best Burlesque” in NY (New York Magazine, The Village Voice), and author of The Corpse Wore Pasties. They will be joined by an All-Star cavalcade of bad men and dangerous dolls.

DAVID HENRY STERRY, JO “BOOBS” WELDON, JONNY PORKPIE, MISS MARY CYN, CHARLES ARDAI, GARY CAHILL, ROSIE CHEEKS

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The Next Great Noir Crime Boss: Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock

Don Corleone, Scarface, Twyin Lannister.  How the Lord of Casserly Rock is the next in a long and glorious tradition of badass noir crime bosses.  From Criminal Element.

Tywin-Lannister-Flaying

Confessions of a Sex Maniac Audio Book

Very proud of this audio book, it’s more like a movie soundtrack with music & ambient sounds by my man Michael Jackson (no relation) from Austin TX

http://bit.ly/ZsPGTj

Confessions book

David Henry Sterry on Dawn Smith: How to Get Published, Reading, Writing & Confessions of a Sex Maniac

Interview about how to get published, reading, writing, sex and life on Dawn Smith Books. Buy the printed version of my new novella Confessions of a Sex Maniac for $4.99 & get a free 20 minute consultation for your writing worth $100 from The Book Doctors. (with proof of purchase)

CONFESSIONS OF A SEX MANIAC A novella by David Henry Sterry

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new novella, Confessions of a Sex Maniac.

To purchase as e-book.  To purchase as printed book.  AMAZING audio book, like a soundtrack to a movie.

Confessions book“11 o’clock Monday night I was standing in the nasty skank stink of a body-fluid-scented room of Felipe’s Massage Parlor. There was no Felipe. No one was there for a massage. The wall was stained with what looked like splattered brain, and if you listened hard enough, you could hear the ghosts of ho’s past screaming.

“I tried not to pant as I basked in the glow of the Snow Leopard. She was decked out in black jacket and sleek black boots, the long of her straight black hair leading directly to the short of her barely-there black skirt that hid little of the loveliest legs I’d ever had the pleasure to gander. Coal eyes with glowing embers in the center made my breath syncopate, and I could almost feel her long red claws at the end of her paws digging into the small of my back.”

Old-school noir meets the new millennium in this story of obsession, murder and the underbelly of San Francisco. A low-level, underling, bagman sex maniac will stop at nothing to get the thing he longs for most–a prize as beautiful as she is deadly–the Snow Leopard. His search takes him deep into the seedy groin of San Francisco’s notorious Polk Gulch where he must choose: sex or death?

A Henry Miller Award Finalist. Confessions of a Sex Maniac is a tribute to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, James Elroy and all those hard-boiled, tender-hearted noir writers Sterry holds near and dear to his heart, brain and other essential organs.

“When David Henry Sterry writes about sexuality, it’s like a chef writing about food.”–nerve.com.

“Sterry writes with comic brio… eye-opening, astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny… graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.”—The New York Times

“Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for?” The Irish Times

 

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