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I started thinking about the word “noir” and then I couldn’t stop. I admit, when I hear it used to describe genre, I think of grainy black and white films with rumpled, hat-wearing detectives calling women “Baby.” I know I am being shortsighted when I think this, but I am in good company.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines noir as:
“Crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings.”

Crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings.

Maybe at some point that is what Noir was all about, but I don’t think that definition has stood the test of time. Noir as a genre has evolved into a much bigger entity. It is a perfect example of why the word “genre” is becoming so taboo. I searched for Noir on a popular audiobook site and got widely varied results. Categories to choose from included Blood Noir, Medieval Noir, Steampunk Noir and Pet Noir (pertaining to the criminal activities of cats). Lovecraft even came up as an option which, to me, is pure Horror.

The criss-crossing of genres pleased me. I love all things dark and the conclusion I reached is there can never be enough Noir. Bring on the Noir. Kitchen Appliance Noir, Denim Noir, Candelabra Noir? Yes, please. I don’t care what you call it as long as you give it to me well-written, intriguing and incredibly dark.

In 2010, Otto Penzler wrote a piece for the Huffington Post Blog wherein he stated Noir is about losers with characters who should curl up and die because they deserve it. (I am, of course, paraphrasing here). He goes on to state Noir with the happy ending has never been written, nor can it be. Wait, what? A happy ending is a matter of perspective. If my beloved Noir villains survive to wreak havoc again and again, I am quite satisfied. If they die, but in the process are freed from their inner pain, I am equally content. If they die solely because they are wicked and “deserved” it—I am gutted. I enjoy a good gutting! Tragic despair makes me positively giddy. For me, all Noir has a happy ending.

Komodo Dragon Noir

I would also like to say to Merriam-Webster that one person’s bleak and sleazy is another person’s comfort zone. I am a woman who believes Sweeney Todd is the greatest love story ever told. Judge me if you’d like, Merriam-Webster, but I take my bleak and sleazy extra dark.

Tonight, as I climb into my Classic Noir bedding, I will nod off with the delightful knowledge that more Noir is on the way. I eagerly await the release of Tom Piccirilli’s new novel What Makes You Die and in my mind I have already labeled it Komodo Dragon Noir.


From Modern Noir Master Tom Piccirilli
What Makes You Die by Tom PiccirilliScreenwriter Tommy Pic fell hard from Hollywood success and landed in a psychiatric ward, blacked out from booze and unmedicated manic depression. This is not the first time he’s come to in restraints, surrounded by friends and family who aren’t there.

This time, though, he also awakes to a message from his agent. The first act of his latest screenplay is their ticket back to the red carpets. If only Tommy could remember writing it. Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.

…This is what makes you die.

Order What Makes You Die by Tom Piccirilli


Antoinette Bergin is the author of Bedtime Stories for Children You Hate. She currently lives in a small town near Portland, Oregon, with her cat and her kid (both of whom have requested their names be withheld). Ingrates. Antoinette is on Twitter as @Nettie_Bergin should you have the burning desire to chat with her.

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