Showing posts with label O'Neil De Noux. Show all posts
Showing posts with label O'Neil De Noux. Show all posts

27 January 2023

Good Hair Styles

Still getting the occasional email criticizing me about my December 16, 2022, article in "Hair Styles" article in SleuthSayers, so I thought I'd give equal time to some pretty cool hairstyles of movie stars from the era.

Adele Jergens

Anita Eckberg

Ann Sheridan

Julie Adams

Elaine Stewart

Ella Raines

Gloria DeHaven

Hazel Brooks

Lana Turner

Ava Gardner

Gene Tierney

Loretta Young

Veronica Lake

Pier Angeli

Thanks all for now –

06 January 2023


After watching a number of 'the making of' and 'behind the scenes' videos on YouTube, I realized I was allowing the illusion, the magic of some movies, to fade into ... reality. I don't need to know how a screen performer had chronic halitosis, false teeth, a toupee (although many are so easy to spot I don't know how I missed it). Don't need to know how crude a performer was on the set, or how certain special effects were done. I always thought they filmed the Mount Rushmore scenes in NORTH BY NORTHWEST at Mount Rushmore. It was a set.

I like a movie to draw me into its world. Science Fiction movies and mysteries lose a lot of their wonder when I know how the sausage was made.

A little-appreciated movie filmed in New Orleans, PANIC IN THE STREETS with Richard Widmark and the wonderful Jack Palance, featured gritty realism and excellent acting. No sets. The way to do it. It's great going back to Royal Street, Magazine Street and Jackson Square in 1950.

It's different with novels and short stories because that's what I write. How a writer crafted their story or put together a novel is interesting. If you build a building, you wanna know how others build their buildings. This is a lot of what we do here at SleuthSayers.

But I feel differently about movies. When I watch a movie with my wife, she always seems to figure out what's going to happen or who did it in a murder mystery. I don't for a couple reasons. First, I like to let the director and screenwriter take me there. Second, I think like a cop when I watch mysteries. I'm a homicide detective and most movies do not show the reality of a murder investigation. Some do but most don't.

Back to short stories and novels, where the CGI takes place in the reader's mind. I have my own vision of DUNE, and none of the movies have matched it. The latest is by far the best and there are looks in it I never envisioned. I don't want to know how director Denis Villeneuve pulled it off. I just let it flow over me.

I don't try to figure things out in a novel. I rather let the writer take me there. That's just the way I read. I find it funny when someone reads one of my books and tells me they figured out who did it in the first thirty pages because I rarely know who did it until I'm near the end. Lately, I don't even know how the book's going to end at all.

That's all for now.

04 November 2022

Random Thoughts

The next book or story I'm going to write will not be in the first person or second person or third person. I'm going to write it in the fifth person where each sentence begins with –

I heard from this guy who told someone ...

That's a joke from stand-up comic/actor Demetri Martin so he gets credit for it. I do think it would be cool and a helluva challenge. Demetri Martin is the same guy who wants to go to a beach frequented by guys with metal detectors. He'll go early in the morning and bury objects with the inscription, "Get a life."

What happened to Frank Yerby's literary estate?

When I was a kid, my father read a lot of Frank Yerby paperbacks – The Foxes of Harrow, The Vixens, The Golden Hawk, Benton's Bow, The Saracen Blade, Jarrett's Jade and others. By the time I was out of college and reading what I wanted to read, instead of what was assigned, I didn't get around to Yerby. I should have. His books are out of print today. Amazon and EBay sells old hardbacks and paperbacks but there are no eBooks or audiobooks and no new editions of his works. My public library (an excellent library) does not carry any Yerby books. The Foxes of Harrow may be obtained via interlibrary loan.

Frank Yerby left the U.S. in 1952, in protest against racial discrimination, living in France then Spain. His ancestry was African, Native American and White. He died in 1991.

Frank Yerby

That's all for now. 

14 October 2022


Verisimilitude: the appearance of being true or real. The appearance.

It's what writers strive do in fiction. Harlan Ellison once said, "I want it to seem real ... to hold up the mirror of life and turn it slightly so you can see things from a new angle."

Create credible characters for readers to follow, to like, to hate, to worry about.

Give the reader fictional hyper-realism. Magic-realism. Hell, anything to show it, to elicit emotion in the reader. Fiction is liberating. It allows us to make up stuff, create people, create worlds, re-create our cities the way we want them to OR show the way they are through eyes with a different vision.

It's easy to screw this up by not paying attention to the details of life, by not showing those details, by taking the lazy way out – such as writing "it was sunny outside" instead of showing sunlight reflecting off a store's window. Pay attention. Observe life and take notes and give it back to the reader with the mirror tilted.

Crime fiction is realistic. The big problem I have, especially with movies, is characters acting illogically (better described as stupidly). I know people make mistakes and do screwy things, but leaving a machine gun on the ground and running off with a revolver with only two shots left in it isn't logical. Why didn't they take the bag of food? They haven't eaten in weeks. Why didn't they take a moment to fill up their canteen? Why don't they call the police right away?

Good ficiton is no easy to write. A writer just needs to give the appearance.

I've quoted Harlan before but I love this one: "I'm a professional liar, folks. I write fiction for a living. I make up weird crap and people pay me for it."

Other tidbits:

Did you know Mike Nesmith of The Monkees wrote "Different Drum" (recorded by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt)?

Did you know Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb (The Bee Gees) wrote "Islands in the Stream" (recorded by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton)?

Did you know Sony Curtis of The Crickets (of Buddy Holly and the Crickets) wrote "I Fought The Law" (recorded by The Bobby Fuller Four)?

Pretty sure we all know Neil Diamond wrote The Monkees hits "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You."

That's all for now.

02 September 2022

Novel Writing

Just watched the movie LAST CALL (Showtime Networks, 2002), a story of the last few weeks in the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It featured the always brilliant Jeremy Irons as F. Scott and a surprisingly excellent performance by Neve Campbell as Francis Kroll, the young secretary he hired, to assist him as he struggled to write. It is based on the memoir of Francis Kroll.

A scene in the movie struck me. Fitzgerald dictates THE LAST TYCOON to Kroll who takes it down in shorthand. When Fitzgerald finishes a scene, Kroll eagerly asks, “Then what?” Fitzgerald answers, “I haven’t a clue.”

It struck me because I’ve been writing my novels like that. I haven't a clue what comes next but it comes to me.

When I wrote my first novels, I always had the plot laid out in detail. I don’t do that anymore. I start with a character in a scene and follow the character though the scene and keep following from scene to scene.

My latest novel HARDSCRABBLE PRIVATE EYE starts with a double-crossed private eye left handcuffed in a cavern in the Amazon by a femme fatale. After more double-crosses, the femme fatale rescues him, leaves him again and I follow him to New Orleans where he works a series of cases before the femme fatale returns.

The PI is hardscrabbled, the story hardscrabbled and I wrote it hardscrabbled and it came out a lot better than anticipated.

We all know there are many ways to write a story. I find creating real characters, putting them in motion and following along is an arduous way to write and so rewarding when it all comes together.

A writer I respect, Roger Bull (formerly of New Orleans and now of Fairhope, Alabama) likes the many twists and turns, making the reader feel as though he was a hamster on a wheel, so many spins and twists until the satisfying conclusion.

Twists? Because I didn’t know where I was going. I just followed and wrote what happened.

That's all folks.

12 August 2022

Time to go to the movies again

It's fun to make lists. Here are some movies lists. What does this have to do with writing? Movies have scripts, don't they?

1. Movies I’ve watched many times and will watch again.

  • AMADEUS (1984)
  • BLOW-UP (1967)
  • CASABLANCA (1943)
  • Blow-up
  • THE DEPARTED (1984)
  • DR. ZHIVAGO (2006)
  • FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)
  • Ghost and Mrs Muir
  • THE GODFATHER (1972)
  • I MARRIED A WITCH (1942)
  • THE IPRESS FILE (1965)
  • LAURA (1944)
  • The Godfather
  • THE PRODUCERS (1967)
  • REBECCA (1940)
  • Ipcress File
  • SHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
  • THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)
  • VERTIGO (1958)
  • This Gun for Hire
  • ZULU (1964)

This list is incomplete as I keep remembering good movies.

2. Movies I’ve seen once and will never watch again.

  • AUSTRALIA (2008)
  • AVATAR (2009)
  • Laura
  • CRASH (2004)
  • LOVE STORY (1970)
  • GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)
  • MRS. DOUBTFIRE (1993)
  • SAW (2004)
  • Every superhero movies I’ve seen except
    • THE PHANTOM 1996)

3. Movies I’ve fallen asleep while watching and won’t try again.

  • All of the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.
  • The HARRY POTTER movies my daughter was able to drag me to

4. Movies I’ve walked out of to get a cup of coffee and waited for my wife to finish watching and join me at the coffee shop

  • SOLARIS (2002)

That's all for now.

10 June 2022

Historical Mystery Revisited

With the release of my latest book, I thought it might be time to revisit my first SleuthSayers article – Writing the Historical Mystery. Since the article aired in September 2016, I have had five historical mystery novels and fifteen historical mystery short stories published.

Accuracy vs. Fiction

Joseph Pulitzer wrote on his newsroom wall – “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy.” Excellent advise for journalists but fiction writers are not journalists and we do not write history books. Historical accuracy is important in the historical mystery but is it more important than your story? I say no.

When we write historical fiction we are writing FICTION. I have a degree in European and Asian History and have had historical articles published in academic journals.

In writing academic historical articles, I strive to be as accurate as humanly possible. Nearly all history graduate students take a class in HISTORIOGRAPHY, the study of historical writing. They know unless you are an eye-witness to an historical event – and that’s one person’s subjective observation – then you must rely on first hand accounts of other contemporary witnesses or second hand accounts complied by other historians. So why worry if you get a minor detail wrong in your historical fiction as I did when I had a character wearing a Banlon shirt several years before Banlon was introduced? Oh, yes. Someone caught me and I had to miss recess that day. Same thing happened when I put a Parker T-ball jotter in a private eye's hand a few years before Parker distributed the pen. Wrong. An easy fix.

Historians in critically-acclaimed history books also get things wrong. Ever read history books of the Napoleonic Wars? British Historians and French Historians paint nearly opposite histories of the same period. It’s almost funny.

Back to my first statement - when we write historical fiction we are writing FICTION – I have fudged on historical accuracy to write a better story because, in my opinion, historical fiction is like someone’s name. John Smith is a SMITH, part of the SMITH family, not the JOHN family. Historical Fiction is FICTION and fiction outranks history, otherwise you’re writing a history book.

“ … fairness is not the historical novelist’s first duty,” the great historical fiction writer Bernard Cornwell pens in his notes at the end of Sword Song (2008). He is correct, of course. The duty of an historical novelist is to entertain, to elicit emotion in the reader and if mistakes of fact are made (from errors in research, by omission or by design), well, it happens.

Fiction writers make up stuff. We make up characters and events, sometimes with an historical backdrop.

Artistic license was taken when I wrote my latest, Hardscrabble Private Eye. I'm not a reporter, I'm a fiction writer.

A novel set in 1935 New Orleans. A tale of buried treasures. Diamonds. Rubies. Emeralds. A priceless stolen book. A tale of treachery with alluring femme fatales, gangsters, Mafiosi, gunfights, tommy guns peppering the night and a private eye harscrabbled in the middle.

That's all for now.

29 April 2022

Gilded Time

Trade Paperback and eBook published by Big Kiss Productions, March 2022

Fascinated by the Gilded Age, I started putting a story together a few years ago. The germ of the idea involved interactions between a wealthy family and a working-class family. I began with the main characters.

The Den Helder family, a railroad tycoon and wife, along with their 21-year old daughter Alicia and 18-year old twins Elspeth and Matthew, lived in a mansion across the street from a elegant municipal park in the wealthy part of town.

Mike Labruzzo, a 27-year old police detective, a single father raising a 4-year of daughter, lived along the edge of the poor side of town.

Setting? Couldn't use New Orleans. The years after the Civil War until the end of the 19th Century may have been a Gilded Age for many Americans but the south was going through Reconstruction. So I thought of New York only I didn't know enough about NYC to set the story there. So where? Chicago? I know less about Chicago.

Hell, I'm a fiction writer. I made up a town called Noressex in Westchester County, New York, about forty miles up the Hudson from NYC. Spent a couple months laying out and naming the streets, building the mansions, houses, tenements, industries, parks, churches, schools.

Added supporting characters – the Den Helder household servants, relatives and friends and fleshing out the Noressex Police Department where Detective Labruzzo worked, and his friends and relatives around the rooming house where he and his little girl lived.

Started the story with a bang, Labruzzo and his partner rescuing Matthew Den Helder from a brawl at a bawdy house in the part of Noressex where young men secretly frequented. Labruzzo has the injured 18-year old taken to a nearby hospital. Visting him later, the detective meets Alicia and eventually Elspeth Den Helder and the rest of the family.

Once the charaters were set in motion, I went along and wrote down what they did until they reached the climax of the story I had laid out in a two paragraph outline. It took 102,000+ words but man, I enjoyed every minute of the ride.

Lot of crime fiction in this historical novel.

That's all for now.

08 April 2022

Memories come back to haunt

They come in dreams and they come in flashes when I'm awake.

Memories of people I once knew, memories of things that happened and sometimes memories of places.

As an army brat, I lived in ten houses in four states and one foreign country before graduating from high school. I remember some of the houses in flashes and a few in photos. Most of my negatives and photos were lost in Hurricane Katrina but some survived and I found a short series of negatives I took in 1979 of the place we lived in 1958-59.

Our building. We lived in the center apartment.

A short street called Navy Parkway in New Orleans was lined with two-story wooden buildings (exterior walls covered in gray slate) separated into three housing sections for military personnel and their dependents just across Bayou St. John from City Park. We lived there when I was in third and fourth grade and it holds the most vivid memories of my early childhood.

Walking to school a few blocks away, walking to the movie theater a few blocks away and seeing great films like The Vikings, King Creole, The Fly, The Buccaneer, Bell Book and Candle, Damn Yankees, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and many more.

I remember long hot summers playing in our neighborhood playground just outside our back door. The ever-efficient military engineers built the buildings around a central grassy playground with monkey bars inside and swings and merry-go-rounds and a canteen at the far end – a precurser of the convenience store – where we kids bought candy and comic books.

The canteen (rear building). Other structures were not there in 1959.

These pictures taken twenty years later show the buildings still there, although no longer military housing. They'd morphed into part of the LSU College of Dentistry. I went back after Hurricane Katrina and it was all gone, the buildings replaced by houses. Even the street was gone. But the memories remain.

Memories like these feed my books with settings long gone. When you're an old man, there are a lot of memories. Memories of faces stir emotions. Some happy, some not so. Old men get choked up easily because so much of our life is behind us.

There's an old saying that goes, "Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks." Sometimes they just make me laugh.

That's all for now.

18 March 2022

Out of The Zone

There's a lesson in here. I think.

In October 2017, I posted an article about a writer writing in The Zone in which a writer's narrow focus on a novel or story is sustained through the interruptions of working a full time job and other distractions. It's like being on another plane.

After retiring, I've been able to work nearly 10 hours a day on writing and remained in The Zone – focused like a laser beam – writing in a near trance – characters interrupting meals with their conversations. Scenes interrupting sleep.

In March 2021, during the pandemic, The Zone became elusive. Fear of family, friends, of my wife and myself going into a hospital and never returning. I narrowed my focus and managed to write but not as much.

Now, in March 2022, I feel out of The Zone and must work hard to focus. The lesson here for writers is to keep pushing, keep writing, even if it is only for a short time each day, even if you only get one sentence down. Stay with it and it will come. Over the last year the short stories and novel I wrote crawled out of my computer, but they came and came better than I thought they would going into each. Maybe I'm on automatic. Maybe a writer who has been writing for nearly forty years has developed an inner focus that gets me through.

Face it, writing is hard. I'm talking about the composition, putting fingers to keys and creating a story. Don't give up on a story and especially a novel. If it seems to die on you, let it sit and go back to it but never give it up.

I have always found the solution and if a little old guy like me can, any of you can.

It's not the inspiration but the work put in to get from the opening line to THE END. Others have said it more eloquently, but that's the way it is.

That's all for now.

ONeil DeNoux

25 February 2022

Movie Titles as Mini-scenes

 Perusing Netflix and Amazon Prime and YouTube, I read through movie titles quickly and - wait – what was that? So I strung some together. The red lettered words are not in titles, they just keep the flow going.

I started with two movies: Waitress. Millie. And came up with this nonsense.

Waitress Mille had Something To Think About Lying Under The Tuscan Sun After Life in The Lillies Of The Field

Gilda Dressed To Kill Touched The Razor's Edge On Golden Pond and Dripped Water for Elephants Every Saturday as Maniacs Richard III The Great Gatsby The Great Waldo Pepper Took A Walk On The Wild Side

Marilyn In A Lonely Place gave A Naked Kiss to The Beast With Five Fingers Marty as The Voyeurs in The Rear Window of The House Across The Bay Saw What Just Happened so Marilyn Asked The Woman In The Window With The Ipcress File Can You Keep A Secret

The Hairy Ape from The Bride And The Beast Beat The Devil In From The Cold as The Spy Who Came In From The Cold The Two Popes and The Devil's Mistress went Under The Eiffel Tower at Midnight In Paris To Play Happy Go Lucky Words And Pictures

The Cool Of The Day A Boy And His Dog went Above And Beyond For Love Of Ivy Dr. Strangelove and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies To Live In L.A.

So This Is Love He Said, She Said Written In The Wind In The Heat Of The Night While The City Sleeps Between Heaven And Hell

The Man With The Screaming Brain Played Forbidden Games Felt Lust For Life with The Opposite Sex Under The Rainbow The Big Sky The Big Trees Big Daddy Big Fish Big Hero 6 Big Top Pee-Wee

Along Came Jones Too Late For Tears and Too Late The Hero to Go For Broke and Blow-Up Small Time Crime in Murderville

The Misfits had The Devil To Pay for The Missing Corpse Copying Beethoven with The Polka King Young Frankenstein The Wolfman Dracula and Mr. Peabody And The Mermaid

The Women Sing of Death Hang 'Em High How Sweet It Is! How To Save A Marriage And Ruin Your Life The Key To Rebecca 

The Right Stuff As Long As You've Got Your Health King Rat Love Has Many Faces Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number How To Murder Your Wife

Baby The Rain Must Fall Inside Daisy Clover Carry On Doctor Even The Wind Is Frightened

The Lost Daughter and Our Idiot Brother took The Thirty-Nine Steps to Afternoon Delight as The Watcher Watched!

Dear Brigitte The Girl Can't Help It If A Man Answers In Search of the Castaways on Boy's Night Out Up From The Beach

The Game is Over Running The Art of Love Inside the Forbidden City The Two Of Us Violated Angels Welcome To Hard Times on The Planet Of The Apes

Daredevil Hunted Spider-Man Thor The Hulk The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms Godzilla In Bruges with Ivanhoe Mandy My Six Convicts My Three Angels The Dirty Dozen while Gidget Goes Hawaiian.

Closely Watched Trains In Harm's Way The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Run, Appaloosa, Run To Sir, With Love

ONeilDeNoux.comHelp! Panic In The Year Zero Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feelin' So Sad You Only Live Twice

Is Paris Burning? Carry On Cowboy Tonight For Sure It Happened In Athens Don't Make Waves Far From The Madding Crowd Playing Soldiers

The Counterfeit Stranger Follow That Camel Half A Sixpence It's A Bikini World Don't Raise The Bridge, Lower The Water I Am Curious (Yellow)

OK. Enough. I have to stop and get back to work.

04 February 2022

The Last Time I Saw Harlan

Looking back as I write this on January 28, 2022, two years after Harlan Ellison died on this day in 2018, I realize the last time I saw Harlan was his visit to New Orleans in 2001. I drove Harlan and Susan Ellison to the French Market and other places around town, including the Chalmette battlefield site of the Battle of New Orleans, and back to the French Quarter to check out where writer Sherwood Anderson lived in the Upper Pontalba Apartments in 1924.

Sherwood Anderson entertained and influenced William Faulkner, Carl Sandburg, Edmund Wilson and others. Harlan influenced me and many others.

I remember we went to the lower French Quarter where my character Lucien Caye lived on Barracks Street as well as where another of my recurring characters, Dino LaStanza, lived with his wife Lizette on Exposition Avenue at the edge of Audubon Park.

While uptown, we went to Lafayette Cemetery and checked out a two-story yellow frame house across the street from the cemetery where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in 1919-20, where he wrote his "Letters to Zelda."

Harlan wanted to eat at a wonderful, small restaurant, a favorite of New Orleanians – Guy's Po-Boys on Magazine Street.

Of all the photos I took of the visit, these are the only ones not destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some of these are stained but that's the way it goes.

I managed to lose a lot of this weight, thankfully.

In the French Market, Harlan talking with one of the stall owners.

In front of the statue of Saint Expedite, inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (which includes the Shrine of St. Jude), North Rampart Street, at the edge of the French Quarter.

Outside le Richelieu Hotel in the French Quarter.

Guy's Po-Boys, 5259 Magazine Street. It's still there.

Susan was a gracious, patient, intelligent woman with an cool sense of humor. Anyone married to Harlan needed a sense of humor. She died in 2020.

Brings me back to the first time I met Harlan at the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival. We sure were young back then.

Harlan, Chris Wiltz, George Alec Effinger, me

For those you who haven't read much Harlan Ellison. He is essential. A master of the short story whose influence on other writers, including me, is enormous. We all know writers influence one another. I see a lot of it today online, here at SleuthSayers and on other social media. A good thing. Writers linking up, maybe never meeting, but interacting and sometime influencing one another, maybe even inspiring each other.

That's all for now.

14 January 2022

When to set a story

The six series characters I write about are set in different times, from the 1880s through today. The fast pace of things today with science and technology and the evolution of humans from the slower-paced 20th Century to the run-amok 21st Century, I find myself preferring to write stories and novels set back in time. The research needed to write stories set in the 19th Century is time consuming but keeps me focused on the characters and the story rather than what's happening today.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it took me a while to write a story set around that time. Janet Hutchings at Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine inspired me to write a Katrina story for EQMM's Salute to New Orleans Issue (Vol. 128, No 5, Nov 2006). It was a dynamite issue and I was happy to see my story in it.

I've written a few Katrina and Hurricane Rita stories after. Eight years after Katrina, I finally wrote a Katrina novel – City of Secrets (2013). Needed time to reflect.

Which is why I have written nothing about the pandemic and don't plan to anytime soon. Y'all can to that and I see many of you have done a good job with it.

Which brings me to the topic of this piece – when to set a story.

Editor Malcolm Cowley explained the four stages of writing a story:

1. The Germ of the Story where the idea for the story inspires a writer

2. The Conscious Meditation where the writer thinks of a way to present the story

3. The First Draft where the writer writes the story

4. The Rewrite where the writer gets it right 

When a writer like me gets inspired, I need to figure which character is right for the story. And just as importantly, when do I set the story. A product of the last half of the 20th Century, I am more comfortable writing about that time. I know the people (I am one) and what was going on then. My history degree helps me go back in time with my stories set in the 19th Century.

I'll probably still write stuff set in the 21st Century but the main characters with not be Gen X or Millenials. For sure, dude.

Side Note:

The sculpture Mackenzie, a product of my artist/sculptor son and the LSU School of Art, stood in our front yard since 2011. We used it on the cover of City of Secrets.

Mackenzie was destroyed last year by Hurricane Ida when she blew a large sweetgum tree across our yard.

Hey, the tree trunk missed our house at least.

That's all for now.