I’ve always loved a good crime drama. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with the film noir classics — Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, D.O.A., Dark Passage. There is something about the tense atmosphere and moral ambiguity of the genre that fascinates me. A sense of doom permeated those films, especially the ones made during the years of the Hays Code, when the studios would not allow depictions of murderers and thieves getting away with their crimes. You knew that eventually, the protagonist was going to run out of time and be caught or killed, but didn’t know when or how they would meet their end.
I was so enamored with the genre that during my freshman year of college, I set out to make a film noir movie of my own. I never quite managed to finish the script (sadly, I cannot even remember what the story was supposed to be about), but I was in love with playing with the tropes of film noir; the black and white; the shadows; and fedoras. Obscure Studios wound up only making a 52-second trailer for The Third Degree. It’s amateurish and embarrassing to the point of causing me pain to rewatch, but it also captures some of the dark mood, gritty style, over-the-top drinking, and corny dialogue of my favorite crime thrillers of the 1940s. Maybe someday, I’ll come back to it and give it a face-lift.
It’s been a while since I’ve ventured into the seedy underbelly of the city in my storytelling and as summer gives way to fall, my thoughts have turned to heists, foul play, and the desperate acts of self preservation that push a person to commit crime.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who starts thinking about whodunits when September rolls around. This month’s Creative Colloquy is themed around crime fiction, so if you’re in the mood for mystery, you can come hear me read my latest short story at our next gathering. In “How to Steal Copper Wire,” I put a modern twist on classic noir staples and do a little digging into what motivates people to turn to illegal acts.
If you’re in Tacoma, you should stop by to hear it. The reading is at Black Kettle Bites and Brew this Monday, September 18 at 7pm. I’ll be spinning my yarn alongside awesome local writers Jack Cameron, Leah Mueller, and James A. Gilletti. Hope to see you there for a night of murder, mayhem, and intrigue.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, filmmaker (though mostly of poorly lit trailers for unmade movies) in the City of Destiny.