Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Hard Place

By Paul J. Garth

Here's my introduction: 

My first piece of fiction came out in the spring of 2014. 

Eight years ago, almost. Holy shit, time flies, doesn't it?

When I was first starting out, publishing my first stories in Shotgun Honey, making my list of markets I wanted to submit to, writing with the fervor only recently converted acolytes can attain, Do Some Damage was required reading. More than the algorithm juiced communities of Facebook or Twitter, here I found new authors I wouldn't have heard of otherwise. Heard of new magazines that featured the kinds of stories I was drawn to. Learned so much about what publishing is, the pitfalls, and how to avoid them. Learned to be a better writer.

And now, eight years later, here I am, sharing my first post. The first post of what will be a semi-regular Wednesday space for me. 

Things have changed in those eight years since I published my first short story and was reading DSD daily. To start, I've written a hell of a lot more stories. And a couple of novellas. And a few novels (One, you might actually see someday). The stories come slower these days, but they're better I think. 

Second, I've also somehow become an editor as well. At two places. One is the very first place I ever placed a story, the legendary Shotgun Honey. The other is (and I'll admit my bias here, but fuck it, I think it's true or I wouldn't say it) what I think is the best Noir magazine going: Rock and a Hard Place

At RHP, with every issue, we confront and then try to answer one of the most persistent questions in this space: What is Noir? 

For my first post, I thought I'd share the foreword to our most recent issue, written by the insanely talented Libby Cudmore

If good writing is capturing the Truth of a fleeting feeling, Libby not only captures the feeling of noir, but also answers why it is important. Now, maybe, more than ever. I hope you dig it, and, if you haven't already, check out Rock and a Hard Place. I truly think we're doing something special over there. Read Libby's foreword, below, and see if you agree:


A mentor of mine once told me that noir is “bad things happening to bad people.” He would know, he was a piece of shit who flushed his life and writing career down the toilet for a couple bottles of drugstore rum and the implied promise of grad-student pussy. It’s an easy sentiment to reach for. A cheap one even, mired in the mortal fallacy that if you stay behind the line that they’ve drawn – the cops, your boss, God – you have nothing to worry about. 

But what can I say? These are noir times we’re living in, through no fault of our own. And there’s a comfort, almost, in reaching for noir when life gets grim. Sort of like reading advice columns or relationship advice on Reddit. It puts your life in perspective. At least I’m not locked in a car trunk, as Leo Rosser finds himself in Jason Allison’s “The Trunk.” I’ve never found a dead body in a shitty motel bathroom, the way the characters in Rob D Smith’s “As Long As You Look Faraway” did. Maybe I can handle another goddamn Zoom meeting. Because we’re all good people, right? Okay so maybe we lie every so often. Maybe we go where we shouldn’t go. Maybe we do that little thing that our brain tells us not to do, because it’s wrong, morally or legally. But who’s keeping score, right? Everyone else gets away with it. No reason I shouldn’t too.

But if these days have proven anything, it’s that we’re all a little bad luck away from being the main characters in our own personal noir. You can be doing the right thing – protesting police brutality and violence against people of color – and some smug little shit will walk away clean after putting a bullet in your back. You get laid off. You get sick. You make a bad choice that seems like the only one to make in the moment, because you don’t have the gift of foresight. Anxious times. Last-ditch measures.

Noir isn’t about bad things happening to bad people. It’s about shitty things happening to desperate people.
And we’re all desperate sometimes.

God, that's just great, isn't it? 

Thanks to Libby for letting me run this. Thanks to the DSD crew for giving me my own little corner. Thanks to you for reading. 

Rock and a Hard Place Issue Seven is on sale now. You can get at the usual spots, but to make things easier for you, I've linked to the paperback version here. The Kindle is available at the same place, and for cheap, but that cover (designed by my brilliant wife!) looks especially menacing on your bookshelf. If noir is about bad decisions, I can promise, picking up that issue and displaying it proudly is about as safe a bet as you can make.

1 comment:

Art Taylor said...

Welcome! Such a great post here, and great work you're doing--and I loved the passages you excerpted from Libby too, this line resonating: "we’re all a little bad luck away from being the main characters in our own personal noir."
Looking forward to more!