BRUCE ROBERT COFFIN
"Classic literary noir at its finest"
"If you love your film noir, your detective fiction in the style of Chandler or Hammett, then you should be all over this. Janet Roger writes as if standing in the shadows, a cigarette hanging from her lips, the collar popped on her raincoat. An absolute must read. She's Raymond Chandler reborn."
PHIL CLARKE, Philmscribe
RAYMOND CHANDLER Under my Skin
As a teenager I’d read all the Philip Marlowe stories - not so long after they were written as I like to think - and they knocked my socks off. Raymond Chandler wrote about Los Angeles and its neon-lit boulevards, its sour, gritty downtown and gun-toting cops (a novelty to this young European) and made them exotic, but what really got under my skin was Marlowe's voice guiding me around the next street corner, and beyond it into a stale apartment block or a down and low bar. He invited me to look over his shoulder, let me see the highs and the lows, talked me through them and then put me in the seat beside him to drive me home. It was heady stuff, up to the point where the story began to seem incidental to the city, its moods and characters and speech patterns. What really mattered was a time, a place and the people you might run into there. I’d discovered a new kind of mystery writing and got hooked. I wasn’t the only one. Pretty soon it just wasn’t possible to take the Chandler out of anyone’s idea of LA. By now you might have the same thought about Leon and Venice, Lehane and Boston, or Block and New York. And that’s how you’ll know they’re getting under your skin too. But If it’s classic literary noir at its very finest you’re looking for, Raymond Chandler has it in spades.
SHAMUS DUST A Time & Place
SHAMUS DUST is a classic noir thriller set in the City of London at Christmas 1947, when - as it still is - the City was financial heart of the capital, often simply known as the Square Mile. Think of it as London’s Wall Street. In fact, it genuinely is - even now - the more or less single square mile contained inside the arc of London’s ancient Roman walls, with the Thames running along its southern boundary. What drew me, was living and working there. You can walk the whole City very easily, and if you do that you inevitably get up close to its geography and history. As for period, SHAMUS DUST is all about a time and place. Those early years of Cold War fascinate me in general. But in the City something very special happens. It had taken a hammering in the London blitz. Hundreds of its acres - some of the most valuable real estate on the planet - were flattened rubble. Which made it archaeologists’ dreamland. For a few short years, before reconstruction got seriously under way, digging in those blitz sites gave them unimagined access to the two-thousand years old Roman city right beneath their feet. They wasted no time. Before reconstruction got seriously under way they’d made monumental discoveries: a Roman temple, a Roman fortress on the line of the wall, even the foundations of an arena - a Roman coliseum, no less. And there was the puzzle. The discovery of the temple and the fortress made instant splash headlines. Yet London’s very own Roman coliseum - yes, there really is one - got overlooked. Seriously, it completely escaped notice for the next almost forty years. Which started me wondering what the real story was.
CITY OF LONDON Up for Grabs
In the blitzed London of the early postwar a window opened on a lost Roman arena. It was stumbled on in the north of the City, on a construction site close by the current Barbican development. But the window closed again, and the coliseum’s existence - it’s an arena the size of a football field - simply got overlooked (!). The mistake is explained today as just one of those things, an oversight that went unnoticed until 1988, when the archaeological record was examined again. Once rediscovered, the Roman amphitheater was excavated for more than a decade, then opened to the public in a spectacular new gallery below ground (don’t miss it on a trip to London). SHAMUS DUST, of course, fills out the story differently. It goes back to those Cold War years, when rebuilding the City of London was up for grabs and fortunes were staked on the coming construction boom. In this telling, the real estate interests include high-end racketeers as well as corrupt City grandees, who think any delay on construction will be very bad karma indeed. Cue that monumental discovery on a construction site that no-one will get to hear of. Cue the apparent vice killing that gets SHAMUS DUST under way. And then cue the hardboiled gumshoe who gets hired as part of the cover-up.
AMERICAN VOICE English Voice
The American shamus is a device, obviously. But in 1947, at the beginning of the Cold War, Americans - in and out of uniform - were everywhere in western Europe. And in numbers too. In London, PI Newman wouldn’t have stood out in a crowd. You’d hear the American voice as often as the English voice in clubs and bars, in stores and on the sidewalk. And by then you might catch some of Newman’s compatriots - Carole Landis, Richard Widmark, Orson Welles and others - arriving there to star in British films noirs. No-one found that strange. Trevor Howard’s terrific Major Calloway in "The Third Man" is a man cast in much the same mold as Newman (even though he is in uniform). But the problem is, I just can’t hear SHAMUS DUST being narrated by an Englishman of the time. English rhythms work against that Chandleresque lazy and lyrical. English cadences and manners play in the wrong key. And besides, it’s a story told from the outside. From police to racketeers, shell-shocked veteran to femme fatale, almost every character the American encounters is English. I wanted a reaction from someone who would find the English as strange and exotic then as we do now, from this distance in time. The American shamus answered the need.
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SHAMUSDUST is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. © 2019 JANET ROGER