Classic American pop culture often grows in popularity overseas while its appeal wanes domestically. In fact the term film noir derives from a term French film critic coined in the 1950s when retrospectively assessing postwar trends in American cinema.
That informed and objective foreign point of view continues to illuminate shadowy corners of our homegrown mythologies.
Meet Jochem, a rising young crime writer with a bright literary future, partly mined from our common dark past…
Why do you think the private eye novel is still popular well into the 21st century?
I’m not sure if it still is really popular. Still, it refuses to die as a genre even though people keep saying it’s dead. Although the bigger commercial successful crime novels aren’t PI novels really you have the Harry Bosch books, the Jack Reacher books and the Dave Robicheaux books which are all kind of PI books in disguise. Basically, even though they may not be official PI’s people still love to read about damaged loners out for justice. People still crave heroes, the white knights in tarnished armor not afraid to fight the dragons in our society. There’s also a lot of people who seem to think too much that a PI is always a tired story of a guy with a fedora and a bottle in his drawer waiting for the leggy blonde. As much as a good PI novel in the thirties was a very modern novel so the best current PI novels are very modern. I think the Elvis Cole books do a good job of adapting to the time again and again, marrying the thriller genre with the hardboiled PI genre pretty well.
Of course, with the whole ebook thing there’s a lot of writers now who don’t write to sell the big numbers but just have a huge love for the genre. You don’t need a huge publisher behind you anymore and that’s a huge help to the genre. So we do see an uprise right now rivaling that of the nineties.
As a European, how do you identify with and define “noir," considering its originally a French designation of an American trend in postwar cinema?
I’m not much of an expert on noir, preferring hardboiled above that. But to me noir are stories about regular people who are drawn to the dark side for love or money.
When you write, are you more concerned with voice and style, or narrative and plot - or is there no particular priority?
I want to write a good and cool story that moves along with speed and has some laughs and some action and maybe a good mystery. That’s the most important thing. Aside from that I just have a way of writing that I like that follows the rules of Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker about leaving out the parts people skip. That voice is nothing I aim hard at, it just happens.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
Literary the greats like Hammett and Chandler of course. Lawrence Block, early Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Lee Child, James Lee Burke but especially Robert B. Parker. Also, I’m influenced by comic books and punk rock and heavy metal music. There’s a lot of references to that kind of stuff in my books and the fact I often write to that music might be the reason it’s fast-paced.
What’s next for you?
After writing quite a number of novellas that didn’t sell I’m now writing some serial fiction, trying to have more people notice my stuff. There’s a superhero story I’m writing about a character called The Thespian here. It’s about Actor Mark Brant who discovers a mask that enables him to BECOME every role he ever played and ends up becoming a superhero. A pretty selfish, arrogant and womanizing one that is... That one will appeal to superhero fans in genre but especially fans of the old Marvel Wonder Man comics, Deadpool and Daredevil.
Also I’m writing about Lenny Parker who’s a roadie / PI. His stories can be found at my blog. At my blog you can find, mostly every week, the latest reviews of PI novels and some interviews with their creators. I’m also working on a new serial featuring a female, heavily tattooed 18-year old Asian process server over there. Also, I’m writing a novel with another new character with the working title Hard Cash. I hope to get that one published at one of the cool niche publishers like Down & Out Books or something that I like so much.
I also do some reviews of indy superhero comics here, and of course try to plug my Noah Milano books and novellas that are still out there, the latest of which was Serving Justice, for sale here. Noah is of course the character I’m most known for, but I’m giving him a bit of a rest because I think Lenny Parker is a unique enough character to deserve some more of my time right now.
Jochem Vandersteen has been blogging and writing about PI's for more then ten years now at http://sonsofspade.blogspot.com. When not writing about hardboiled crime and their writers he likes to read and review comics, listen and review rock music or just drink some craft beer or Jack Daniels. Aside from that he should mention he's also a husband and a father, so if anyone knows how to squeeze more time into a day he's all eager to hear about it.
PHOTO: JOCHEM VAN DER STEEN