TitanShade: Noir Lives in a Gritty New Metropolis
I love noir. There just something about that grim and gritty pulp-filled genre that just reels me in. It's a big part of the reason why I'm unabashedly addicted to Turner Classic Movies. The last good noir story to reel me in was horror novella by Cassandra Khaw called Hammers on Bone. So, I seriously down to give a noir fantasy thriller called TitanShade promising to give noir a whole new stomping ground to play a read.
Carter's a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It's also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city's future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.
But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure's never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter's investigation leads him into conflict with the city's elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.
Page Count: 416
Published: March 12th, 2019 by DAW Books
I had an opportunity to send author Dan Stout a few questions reading his debut novel and his answers just make me wonder why it took me so long to discover him in the first place.
|What is it about noir that you like the most?|
My favorite noir usually has a sense of decay about it. Moral, emotional, or physical, it often seems like things are falling apart, and only held together by a weird mix of delusion, denial, and blind optimism. That sense of decay is also strong in the Gothic and Southern Gothic tradition and is why I’m drawn to authors like Flannery O’Connor.
It never occurred to me before, but I wonder if that’s at least partially because I worked in construction for so long. I spent so much of my life preventing decay and repairing damaged structures, that decrepit and declining forms may hold a dark allure for me
|What's your favorite noir film? Why?|
I think you’d get a different answer depending on the day you ask me. So maybe it’s only because Southern Gothic is on my mind, but right now I’d say Night of the Hunter. It’s beautifully filmed, Robert Mitchum is terrifying as the villain, and I really do feel for the children he’s pursuing.
And if you’re into that kind of thing, Mitchum’s Love-Hate speech gets a fantastic reworking in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. It’s a pretty great example of how art can be repurposed and revitalized in a new context, while still honoring the source material.
|Who are your favorite noir-ere private investigators? Why?||I’ve got a soft spot of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op. There’s something so wonderfully crisp in Hammett’s prose, and books like Red Harvest are completely over the top.|
Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins is a great character, and I’m pretty sure he was the first noir investigator who wasn’t a straight white male. Easy’s voice was so refreshing the first time I read it, and Mosley makes the post-WWII setting sway and snarl; it’s great stuff!
|What's the "elevator pitch" you'd give for Titanshade if you had 2 minutes to sell a reader on your book?||“It’s MEN IN BLACK meets CHINATOWN in a 70s-era fantasy world.” Then I’d stand in awkward silence and watch the floor numbers go by for the next minute and a half.|
|What do you like best about your main character, Carter? Why?||I love that his world-weary attitude is the result of being a disappointed idealist, rather than a bitter cynic. That touch of warmth in him makes him much more fun to write than if he were simply a burned-out nihilist. It also makes the moments when he connects with others feel much more grounded and sincere.|
|What was the most difficult part of the world building when you were creating the city Titanshade?||Not getting stuck down the rabbit hole of research! I don’t do general worldbuilding so much as focus on one small thing and dig down until it creates an interesting or unexpected result. That makes it a lot more fun for me to create, but it can potentially drag me down some distracting side paths.|
|The most fun thing to research for this book?||One particularly satisfying moment was when I talked to a couple architects and designers about how the buildings in Titanshade could be built without disrupting the geo-vents that keep the city warm even in the middle of the ice plains. I pitched them my ideas and they universally gave me a thumbs-up (and suggested a couple more options). I was surprisingly relieved that my construction street cred was going to stay intact.|
|Strangest factoid you discovered while researching?|
|While searching for an Earthly analogue for the exposed biting jaws of Mollenkampi, I found out about baboon “war faces”. Some baboons flip their lips inside out to make their jaws appear more ferocious, and there’s all kinds of great photos and documentation of this happening. It’s really surreal to see, and it made a pretty great way to waste an hour or so!|
|Top five songs (on eight-track of course) you'd never leave home without|
Okay, in no particular order:
Which makes for a pretty eclectic 8-track, and points out that I’ve been listening to fairly mellow stuff lately. Must be the winter weather!
|Who inspires you to keep writing?||Besides debt collectors? My fiancé. Mandy is an amazing person, and her background in theatre means that she knows how the submission/rejection process can wear a person down. Plus, there’s nobody in the world I’d rather sit around and talk to about story, character, and all the ways we can communicate with an audience.|
|What the best piece of advice you've ever been given?||Well, it wasn’t advice exactly, but as a kid my dad would make me do my chores over and over until they were right. It took a long time, but I finally figured out that it’s a lot faster if you just slow down and do things right the first time.|
|What do you like best about writing groups/communities? |
|I love the various writing communities I’ve been a part of. My favorite thing about them is the variety of opinions/experiences you’ll find. For example, in my critique groups I’d read someone’s story and think I understood exactly how it worked, but when I heard other the members’ critiques I’d see the work with fresh eyes. If you can find a community with a talented, diverse membership, it can be like jet fuel for your own writing.|
|What's the wildest idea you've ever had for a story? Did it ever make it to publication? If so, where can interested readers find it? |
|One of the most interesting stories I’ve had published is about a young drug addict who’s left as a sacrifice to a dragon in post-apocalyptic Detroit. She saves herself by introducing the dragon to her drug of choice: heroin. It was originally published in The Stonecoast Review, and is currently available at Curious Fictions. (https://curiousfictions.com/stories/493-dan-stout-riding-the-dragon)|
|Do you have any advice for writers who want to focus on writing short fiction?|
Man, I love short fiction, and this is a fantastic time to be writing it! There’s a ton of markets to send your work, and the ease of sharing on social media means that even relatively obscure markets can see a story break out into a wider audience.
My best piece of advice for short story authors is to not be afraid to experiment.
For me, writing short stories was a way to try out differences in voice, style, and genre in a greatly compressed timeframe. I think of it like rapid prototyping—each story was a chance to tinker and learn with relatively little time investment.
Of course, everyone’s process is different, and what worked for me may not work for others. But if anyone wants to experiment with various modes and voices, short fiction is a phenomenal way to do it.
|Can fans expect more stories set in Titanshade?|
|Absolutely! I’m already polishing up the sequel, and I’ve got several short-form works in mind that explore different aspects of the broader world or focus on cool details that I’d like a chance to expand slightly.|
About The Author:
Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about half-truths and double-crosses. His fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller.
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