In addition to writing and hosting A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor has written a barrel full of whimsical novels based around the characters on his cult radio hit.
I have never had access to the program (although I have a DVD copy of the Robert Altman movie based on the show). However, there is a special place in my alleged heart for tough guy pulp fiction and Mr. Keillor’s 2012 novel Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny seems to be a spoof on the vintage P.I. mysteries Raymond Chandler (Phillip Marlowe) Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer) and Brett Halliday (Mike Shayne) pumped out back in the day. (Actually, listing Mr. Chandler in the same sentence with those other two mugs is close to sacrilege. And if I have to explain who he was and what “noir” is all about, then, to quote a Lovin” Spoonful lyric – sung in a somewhat different context – “It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”)
(The definition of “noir”varies anyway, depending on what you read and/or who you talk to.)
Guy Noir is the narrator of the 205 page tome and author Keillor writes in the voice of an “old school” private eye shocked to discover he has somehow survived to a ripe old age (“65? Moi? The poor man’s Phillip Marlowe? Yikes?) and is dealing rather badly with it.
Of course, the novel can also be viewed as a thinly veiled satire of modern popular culture …
For example, Noir has no patience with the organic foods movement ….
“The organic, fair-trade vegetarian restaurant Bright Morning Stars had a CLOSED sign in the window, having gone out of business two weeks before. Inside, the hand-crafted chairs were stacked on the sustainable tables … St. Paul is a meatloaf-and-mashed-spuds kind of town … The Yarnery had closed, and the artisan sausage shop. The Weinery … I walked into the dim and cavernous Brew Ha Ha coffee shop just as Sharon the barista cranked up her espresso machine with a whisper of steam that sounded suggestive to me … “
He is also rather bemused by today’s wi-fi youth culture …
“20 or 30 students sat typing on laptops, texting on cell phones, talking their odd jittery talk – ‘So she was like, Huh? And he goes like, Whatever. And I’m like, No Way. And she’s like, Way.” … A generation of … the Quick Read, the Sound Bite, the Tweet. Everything snappy and quippy. No tolerance for the ponderous and pretentious. I like that. Lots in code. OMG, LOL, LMAO, WTF. You’re either ‘awesome’ or ‘gross’ ….. ”
At times Noir almost sounds like a cranky, latter day Tom Wolfe (and if I hafta tell you who Tom Wolfe is ……)
“Taptaptaptaptap. The sheer volume of data transmission was staggering. Facebook updates, texting, posting, e-mailing …. “
Over a period of pages I discovered Mr. Noir has an active libido (and a colorful way of expressing his amorous exploits and fantasies), an antagonistic relationship with his landlady and a get rich quick scheme involving a rather unorthodox weight-loss program and a lovely and elusive “stripper-turned-women’s-studies professor”.
You can hear Uncle Garrison himself read an excerpt from the first chapter by clicking on the link below …..