Monday, April 7, 2014

Guest Reviewer for "Noir"

Since my inbox has overflowed with review requests of late, I asked a friend and fellow author to read and post a guest review of today's novel.  The noir genre in print and film has been one of his favorite studies throughout his life.  Therefore I knew he was the best candidate for Reyshan Parker's first full-length novel, Noir, The Good Girl, the Detective, and the Femme Fatale.  Please welcome guest reviewer, Gary Cummings.

Book Blurb:
“A story of greed, deceit, revenge, and of course… love!”

A detective murder mystery from three different perspectives that follows each characters life in overlapping chapters, wherein; their lives become intertwined in a web of intrigue, murder, and desire.

Noir is an homage to the last one hundred years of the genre.  With its twisted plot structure, brooding and sexy main characters, and inventive narrative style, Noir takes a look at the more cynical aspects in life from the perspective of the three main characters, each one struggling with their inner turmoil and outward solutions to their unjust lives.

Linearly Noir is the story of David Brissel who, after inheriting a Detective agency from his recently murdered boss, meets Sandra Bloom, a Femme Fatale, who convinces him to blackmail her Congressman husband and kill his bookie.  After getting away with both he is hired by the bookies wife Melanie to track down her husbands killer.  But when he falls for Melanie, Sandra gets jealous and tells her husband that she had hired a detective.  The congressman out for revenge goes to kill David, but luckily Melanie is there to save him, or is she?  As the two women hold David at gunpoint, one last twist will settle everything in this captivating story that will keep you guessing right up until the last shot is fired!

Gary's Review:
In Noir, the Good Girl, the Detective and the Femme Fatale written by Reyshan Parker we find the elements of the great noir novels dating from the 1940’s: murder, revenge, greed, lust and cupcakes. Cupcakes?

Noir follows three primary characters. First we meet Melanie, the Good Girl who has had to deal with the suicide of her high school sweetheart. As she tries to put her life back together Melanie abandons her dreams for college and a career as a journalist and takes a job at a bakery. She soon becomes obsessed with cupcakes which help to assuage the loneliness as well as functioning as a coping mechanism for her grief. Not long after taking the job she becomes smitten with a customer, falls in love and marries him. All is well until Melanie suffers a miscarriage. In too short a time Melanie’s husband changes, drinking heavily, blaming Melanie for everything that goes wrong in their world and becoming abusive. Don’t get the idea that the Good Girl is going to slip into role of the long-suffering wife. Check out how the book opens: Before I entirely let you in as to why I am pointing this gun at the man in the hat and why there is a dead fat man on the floor, I thought maybe we should get to know each other first.

After Melanie we’re introduced to the Detective. David has aspirations of being a great photographer, hoping someday to have the money to open his own gallery. However, times being as they are, he has to take a job with a private detective who took David in off the streets after David’s father died. Sneaking around after suspects, surreptitiously taking photos and occasionally breaking into homes to gather evidence is quite a ways away from a one-man show at the MOMA, but it almost pays the bills. When his employer meets an untimely death David is stunned to find himself the sole beneficiary of the small detective agency.  After years of doing his boss’s dirty work David has suddenly become the Detective.

Rounding out Noir’s main characters is the Femme Fatale. Sandra is beautiful, and knows how to use her looks to get what she wants. After growing up poor she embarks on a career in modeling, all the while waiting to use her looks to find a man of wealth to marry and retire into the easy life. She finds the man, if not the easy life, in a powerful U.S. congressman from a wealthy family and marries him.  Things go well for Sandra at first, as her husband dotes on her and shows her off to his world of politics and money. But just as money drew young Sandra to the congressman, other women are drawn to him as the years pass. Sandra’s husband succumbs to the lure of younger women with Sandra suspecting infidelity, but able to take solace in her lavish lifestyle. However, things are about to get worse for her:

"We need to talk," he said, looking at me sternly, "It's about your allowance."
"What about my allowance?" I asked.
"We need to make some sacrifices."
"If you think for one second that--"
"This isn't a negotiation," he barked! "You'll just have to buy two less pairs of shoes a month.""How dare you!" I threw my napkin onto my plate. I had to make sacrifices? For what, to pay for his liaisons? I deserved less, while he paid some tart's rent? That was the last straw. "I don't even know why I married you!" I screamed as I stood up to leave the room.

Asking a pampered wife to get by with two less pairs of shoes a month can’t end well for a philandering husband. Especially if she’s referred to as the Femme Fatale.

The setting for Noir is simply the city. There are no hints geographically as to its location. The Detective describes it: The city was dark and quiet that night. It had just rained. The smell of the city had temporarily been washed away, replaced by that cool refreshing scent of crisp clean night air. Gone for the moment was the stench of the numerous dumpster's filled with rotting food and rats. Gone were the acrid fumes of the nonstop traffic and refineries. The smell of corruption and power had also been vanquished for the time being.

Noir is a fast-moving tale, with an intricately designed plot, told from the three distinct points of view with the three aforementioned characters each telling their story in first person. Each chapter is named for the character whose turn it is to continue the story. Perplexingly, there were no numbers following the word Chapter, only the point-of-view character’s name with each new chapter. However, this seemed to be an oversight and was only a minor annoyance. When two of the trio of main characters are in the same scene that scene is recounted twice, in successive chapters, related in from one then the other’s point of view. Exact dialogue is repeated, which at times is a little tedious, but we’re treated to the point-of-view character’s thought process which provides nuance to that person’s motives.

As I referenced earlier, the book begins with Melanie, the Good Girl promising to tell the reader why she is standing over a dead body holding a gun. In fact, the Good Girl, the Detective and the Femme Fatale each get a crack at telling their side of why they all are standing over the dead body. The three characters seem not to know each other but through each one’s desire to change their circumstances they enlist one another’s help. The change they seek, as you would imagine in a novel titled Noir, is not in the form of marriage counseling, debt forgiveness and setting up a neighborhood watch, and the help they require of each other is somewhere south of legal.

The main characters were fully developed and each told their story with a distinctive voice reflecting the persona laid out in each of their introductory chapters. As a reader, a good test of how well characters are written is to read dialogue while trying to block out the dialogue tags, to see if the characters are identifiable. These characters came across as their own “persons” through the entire novel.

The clever plot, the dead-on descriptions of the city and the seamy people populating the rackets, and the sharp dialogue kept me flipping the pages at a rapid pace. Two things slowed me down: 1) A glossing over of a few loose ends that I couldn’t help but think were ignored so as to have a cleaner path to the end of the plot. 2)There are quite a few errors in editing.

Some inconvenient details nagged at me as I neared the end of the book which were not fully explained at book’s end. A couple of murders take place and for some reason the police seem less than dogged in their pursuit of suspects. Also troubling to me was that when a notable person was blackmailed, a minimum of risk seemed to be involved to the blackmailer as he safely escaped with the loot. The end of the scene seemed to be saying to the reader, “Nothing more to see here. Don’t overthink things. Next page, please.”

The bane of being involved with indie writing is the reputation of our books being littered with errors and Noir has quite a few. A second or third set of eyes seemed to be needed to catch problems such as using then instead of than, viola instead of voila, being unable to decide if martini should be capitalized, as well as other problems.

Noir was enjoyable and I’m glad I read it. If you can ignore the editing issues I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Two and a half stars out of five.

Author Bio:
Since he was handed his first video camera at the age of eleven, Reyshan Parker has dreamed of the entertainment business.  As a child Reyshan wrote and directed a series of super hero shorts called “Quickman” and dabbled in a bit of Lego animation.   Editing from the camcorder to a VCR, he also watched his father build computers and the young boy imagined the possibilities if the two were combined.  Reyshan excelled in the theatre department in high school, acting in numerous full-length plays and being accepted to the prestigious Acting Ensemble; the members of which wrote and directed skits that were then toured around the state.

After heading to college for acting, Reyshan soon found writing to be his passion and completed his B.F.A. in playwriting with a minor in Film at Ohio University in 2007.  While studying under Charles Smith and Erik Ramsey, he wrote several full length plays, most notably Risk, Best Intentions, and Strike: The Musical, an Appalachian Comedy, that won the Humble Play playwrights festival in 2007, and was then produced by ARTSwest theatre company in 2008 to excellent revues.

Also in 2007 Reyshan wrote, directed and produced Casual Fine Dining, a mocu-mentary about a small town restaurant.  The film was lightly based on his fifteen years of bussing, waiting tables, bartending, and managing the front of house in 3 star restaurants.   He followed it up with Poor Crusader’s, a documentary on the Appalachian economy, Disorder, a short about a PTSD soldier, and The Closet, a psychological ghost thriller.

Reyshan got the idea for a feature film entitled Noir, before heading to the Savannah College of Art and Design where he studied Producing under Andrew Meyer, Directing under Lubomir Kocka, and Screenwriting Under Michael NolinDavid Engelbach and Amy Maddox. The next three years of this young artist’s life were spent dedicated to developing the complex story perspective, keeping in mind financial feasibility with regards to each aspect of the filmmaking process. During this time he also wrote and directed, The Man who Wouldn’t Listen, directed, Marias Ghost, and Elderado, produced a beautiful little short called, Phillip, shot Noir.0: The prologue  which was nominated for a Scademy Award, and has since published the Novel version of Noir as well as the first two Comic Books in the Graphic Novel series, while in pre-production for the feature film version of Noir.

Reyshan currently resides in Savannah, GA where he is putting together, a what he calls, Independent Lasagna:  The Independents Guide to the Feature... "keep it simple stupid".  Which will be a free guide book and online graduate video lecture course on how to make feature films, basically for the cost of food...  Needless to say there are a lot of layers.

1 comment:

  1. Just an FYI we have finally fixed all the typos! Reading Enjoyment Just Went Up a Notch! Thank you for your time and for bringing the issues to light.