A while back, fellow crime/noir writer Jason Beech asked me to participate in the long-running and popular ‘Books I Wish I’d Written’ feature for his blog. I said yes, and promptly panicked, because I couldn’t think of a book I knew well enough to talk about in enough detail to be interesting.
And then Joel Lane came to the rescue. I read his noir gem ‘From Blue to Black’ a good many years ago now and was blown away by it. I remember thinking it was exactly the sort of noir book I’d love to be able to write, if only my facetious sense of humour didn’t keep getting in the way. So I settled down to re-read it to refresh my own memory, and then subjected myself to Jason’s questions.
Unlike most interviewers, he didn’t send all of these at once. Instead, he asked one, and then let my answer influence his next query, so it became more like a conversation with ideas batted back and forth. It was hard work, but really stimulating, and made me examine in much greater depth what exactly it is that I love so much about Joel’s book. The language, for sure; the descriptions; the amazing colour palette; the sense of doom. The setting in Birmingham. The sense of unease, of otherworldliness, that occasionally pervades the narrative. Jason managed to tease out all of this and more.
I was lucky enough to meet Joel Lane several times (we were on the same writing circuit in Birmingham in the early 2000s) and he was very supportive of my own writing efforts, particularly in the noir genre. I could never hope to understand – or write – noir as well as he did, but I owe him a huge debt for helping to foster my own enthusiasm for the genre.
You can find my spiel on ‘From Blue to Black’ at Jason’s Messy Business blog here. Hope you enjoy it – and if my responses encourage you to go out and read any of Joel’s books, then good. If you like noir, you really won’t regret it.