A journey through the neon night of Noir – An Interview with Richard Godwin

I am delighted to welcome to Writerland prolific wordsmith Richard Godwin. Richard has dropped in to talk about his latest novel One lost Summer, and about his  love of Noir fiction.

Hi Richard, Could you tell me a little about your new release, One Lost Summer?

One Lost Summer is my third novel, a Noir psychological study. Here is a brief synopsis:

Rex Allen loves star quality in women. He moves into a new house in a heat wave with few possessions apart from two photographs of his dead daughter. His next door neighbour, beautiful Evangeline Glass invites him over to one of her many summer parties, where he meets her friends and possessive husband Harry. Rex feels he knows Evangeline intimately. He starts to spy on her and becomes convinced she is someone other than who she pretends to be. When he discovers she has a lover, he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster.
One Lost Summer is a novel about obsession, love, memory and identity, and much more. It explores the things that make us feel we have an identity and what happens when those things are removed from us, as well as the extent to which we can know anyone, even ourselves. It also about how much we understand the irrational impulses that drive us.

Rex Allen, the protagonist, might say it is about what happens when you forget. Evangeline, his beautiful next door neighbour, might say it is about being trapped and the things you do to escape. Coral, the character around whom much of the drama revolves, might say it is about reality and how easy it is to manipulate it. Harry, Evangeline’s husband, might say it is about lies and liars.

What is your fascination with Noir fiction and why does the the genre continue to be so popular?

I am not sure I would describe it as a fascination since I have written in a number of genres, but Noir is both versatile and amenable to the kind of literary themes I find interesting. Noir characters always screw up, whatever their circumstances they are going to make a mess of things. And that is not only highly dramatic but thematically rich. Men and women who are compromised in some way allow me as a writer to dig into their minds and characters. I am interested in the nature of identity in terms of our conditioning and the things we may discover about ourselves when the props we use to repress our shadows are removed. There are no heroes in Noir, just like in real life. I think heroism is a fundamentally flawed concept. In this way Noir is a realistic genre. It may also be the least politicised genre since it does not make it easy for a writer to use it for an agenda that panders to a moral stance.

Do you think moral ambiguity in fiction is a good thing?

I think without moral ambiguity we would have pretty tedious fiction. Imagine a world of writers policed by the censorious self-righteous moralists who are poisoning young minds with their objectifying theocracies.

The history of the novel may begin with Don Quixote, it encompasses Gulliver’s Travels, Tristram Shandy, Great Expectations, Women in Love, Ulysses, Tropic of Capricorn, Blood Meridian, the list is exhaustive and this one is by no means definitive, it is an example of the fact that fiction is highly ambiguous and ambivalent and at times given its history an unintentional argument with the law. The extreme totalitarian regimes of the Third Reich and Stalinist USSR attempted to impose their own political agendas on writing and Art and created the most monotonous manifestos imaginable, that was not Art it was propaganda. Now this attempt at decay has assumed new forms among the local priests of the illiterate moral purists, the new fascists and engineers of a eugenics aimed at rendering everyone docile and ignorant, to quote Zappa in his defence against them.

What are your views on the Femme Fatale?

Morally ambiguous territory within a genre that may have begun challenging female stereotypes and socially contained sexuality.

One Lost Summer has two femme fatales, Evangeline Glass and Coral, who may be a figment of Rex Allen’s imagination, or Evangeline’s alter ego. If the femme fatale operates within that area of fiction that Foucault described in The History of Sexuality as the redeployment of desire, then in a dramatic sense she incorporates the hidden sexuality made monstrous by patriarchal repression and she needs to exist. But then she always did. The Wife of Bath may be an early bawdy Chaucerian version of her, but the challenge to a phallocentirc portrait of female sexuality is there.

In One Lost Summer Rex is struck by Evengeline’s grace and beauty. As he traps her, he says of her:

‘I needed some singular form of privacy in which to reveal Evangeline. She could have a hundred lovers. I didn’t want her body. I wanted something else entirely from her than the thing she gave to other men.’

Rex urges Evangeline to act out the part of Coral, and he won’t or can’t tell her who she is.

“I’ve seen you at your parties, Evangeline, you’re playing a role.”

“No, that’s what you want me to do.”

 “You’re the Evangeline that Harry wants, but what about the other one?”

  “There isn’t another one. You’re talking about that bitch Coral.”

            As she invented her, so she found her. I knew she’d fit the part.

            She left at four. I let her keep the outfit.’

But perhaps Coral is the real femme fatale in the novel.

Picasso said “Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth”. Do you think that’s true, and if so, are writers compulsive sociopathic liars?

I think Picasso was a genius. I also think he was cynical about the Art world. I think his statement came out of that juxtaposition of time and necessity, and therefore when he walked around galleries pulling paintings off the wall of patrons who talked about their views on Art without understanding it he was satirisng it and rightly them. One of the finest illustrations of the pretension of Art buyers everywhere is the supposed disgrace of the famous George De la Tour painting The Card Players, widely accoladed and hilariously faked when it was discovered that the real painter had manufactured a perfect forgery before the presence of the word merde was discovered on it and it plummeted in value but still remains a great work of Art. Conclusion One: the experts don’t know what they’re talking about. Two: value your own tastes.

I think the quotation by Picasso is a version of many paradoxes. Writing and Art is paradoxical.

Who are your favourite Noir writers and why?

To name a few:

Ross MacDonald for his atmosphere and plots

James M. Cain for his simmering stories and great characters

Jim Thompson for his realism and insight

David Goodis for his unerring sense of criminality and dialogue

Are there any narrative and linguistic challenges in writing within the Noir genre?

To make something new and remain within genre requires challenges of structure and the adaptation to cultural change. Linguistically Noir may not be experimental but it is a capable hybrid. I believe it can be mixed with other genres, for example sci-fi. To merge those styles is a challenge, and a rewarding one.

What are you doing to market and promote the launch of One Lost Summer, out this week?

 I was recently interviewed by the BBC here:  and have many forthcoming interviews and posts on sites such as Noir Nation, Writer Space, Long And Short Reviews and Pulp Pusher to name but a few.

Then after the launch I am on a book signing tour starting in London and taking me to the States. Events can be tracked at my site. I will be networking at the usual places including Goodreads.

Biography

Richard Godwin is the author of critically acclaimed novels One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising and Mr. Glamour.  One Lost Summer is his third novel. Set in a heat wave, it is very much a summer read, a Noir story of fractured identity and ruined nostalgia.

He is also a published poet and a produced playwright. His stories have been published in over 29 anthologies, among them his anthology of stories, Piquant: Tales Of The Mustard Man.

Apostle Rising is a dark work of fiction exploring the blurred line between law and lawlessness and the motivations that lead men to kill.

Mr. Glamour is about a world of wealthy, beautiful people who can buy anything, except safety from the killer in their midst.

Richard Godwin was born in London and obtained a BA and MA in English and American Literature from King’s College London, where he also lectured.

You can find out more about him at his website www.richardgodwin.net , where you can also read his Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse, his highly popular and unusual interviews with other authors.

Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/stanzazone

One Lost Summer is available at all good retailers and online at:

Amazon.com      Amazon.co.uk      The Book Depository        Waterstones 

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