Tuesday, December 25, 2007

So, You Want to Write Noir...

By Cornelia

Does anyone remember now whether it was Fran Liebowitz or Nora Ephron who wrote the great series of quizzes with titles such as, "So, You Want to Be the Queen of England..."

and "So, You Want to Be the Pope..." (My friends call me: a)Sparky b)Bubba c)Supreme Pontiff)

I don't currently have a clue, and I can't seem to find my copy of Field Studies to check, but I thought it would be good to offer a similar aptitude test for those considering a career in the Noir Services Industries(tm).

So, You Want to Write Noir...

1. Who killed Roger Aykroyd?

a. Ken Bruen
b. Leonardo Da Vinci
c. I can't tell you, it would be a spoiler
d. The knitting cat

2. "They threw me off the hay truck about noon" is the first sentence of which classic novel?

a. The Secret of the Old Clock
b. The Woman in White
c. Princess Daisy
d. The Postman Always Rings Twice

3. You come home to find your significant other doing the nasty on the kitchen table with the private investigator you hired. Do you...

a. Pour yourself a slug of bourbon while full of angst.
b. Close your venetian blinds while full of angst
c. Straighten the seams on your stockings, stand dramatically backlit in the kitchen doorway, take one deep drag off your cigarette, and then exhale while full of angst
d. Slap yourself across the face repeatedly, yelling "My mother! My sister! My mother! My sister!"
e. All of the above.

4. Your landlady, a slatternly old drunk, is banging on the door demanding the three weeks back rent you owe her. Do you...

a. Invite her in to join the party
b. Shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
c. Tell her you don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies
d. Unbutton your shirt, open the door, chuck her under the chin, and ask her where she's been all your life

5. Of the following, who's the most noir?

a. Rita Hayworth

b. Jessica Rabbit

c. Gloria Grahame

c. Claire Trevor

e. Frances Farmer

6. In order to avoid bruising that might harm business, pimps often beat their "girls" employing

a. a towel filled with oranges
b. a roll of nickels in each fist
c. coat-hangers wrapped in cotton batting
d. dressage whips

7. If you're "on the gooseberry lay," you have been...

a. stealing clothes from clotheslines
b. picking fruit as a migrant worker
c. trying to score some heroin
d. breaking into chicken coops after dark
e. Shooting men in Reno, just to watch them die

8. Of the following, who's the most noir?

a. Charles Bukowski

b. Tom Waits

c. Prince Philip

d. Sylvia Plath

9. The line "reader, I married him" appears in which novel?

a. Jane Eyre
b. The Grifters
c. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
d. The Magdalen Martyrs

10. Eddie Muller is

a. the fourth Pep Boy that Manny, Mo, and Larry don't talk about.
b. the Czar of Noir
c. The Sultan of Swing
d. The bastard love-child of Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Willeford

11. Why does "she walk(s) these hills in a long black veil"?

a. because she shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
b. because her lover's alibi for the night of her husband's murder was "I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife"
c. Because she was a man in Reno, before the surgery
d. Because she looks good in hats

12. How much does an eightball weigh?

a. one half pound
b. an eighth of an ounce, give or take the weight of the baggie
c. the same as a cueball
d. two keys of Lebanese blonde hash, man

(Lucky Number) 13. What color is a typical nickel bag?

a. silver
b. the same color as a Nation Sack
c. green
d. manila

14. What is the perhaps apocryphal real-life reason that Orson Welles included the word "rosebud" in Citizen Kane?

a. He was a fan of Miss Marple, and gardening generally
b. He still missed his boyhood sled
c. It was William Randolph Hearst's pet name for a rear nether-portion of Marion Davies' anatomy
d. He was deeply moved by the poignancy of allegorical chivalric love poetry

Bonus question:

15. Complete the following sentence: "Third boxcar, midnight train..."

a. "...drinkin' wine, spo-dee-o-dee"
b. "... destination: Bangor, Maine"
c. "...falls mainly in the plain"
d. "...beads and Roman sandals won't be seen"

Answers are written in white, below. Highlight them to check your score, giving five points for each correct answer.

1. a 2. d 3. d 4. b 5. e 6. c 7. a 8. d 9. a. And you lose five points for knowing that. 10. b 11. b 12. b 13. d
14. c 15. b

How you rate:

0-10: Stick to "cats that knit" as protagonists
15-25: Cheese it, you're about as noir as Nanny and the Professor
30-40: Go home and memorize some Bukowsky
45-55: Pack your bags, you've won a free trip to Angst-erdam
60 and up: Step away from the bourbon... and don't ever go back to Reno

14. c


  1. I'd love to know how many Eddie would get on this list! Love your post/question time thingy, Cornelia - and I'll do it later, when I've got my thinking cap on, as they say in British primary schools (one always has to have one's thinking cap on ....)

    Happy Boxing Day

  2. *snorts* It's 'bout time there was some 'naked' here on NakedAuthors. Even better than Paul's mother-in-law! ;o)

    I'll be back to take the test, but I don't think I'm a-gonna do so good--at least, that's what my cat tells me over her knitting.

  3. I better find nanny and the Professor on Nick at Night.

    Another winner, Cornelia.


  4. I barely scored a 45 and that's only because I love Roger Miller.

    And I'm in total agreement about Frances Farmer. That's some dark shit there. Real dark.

  5. Just call me the cheesy nanny... However, you did get me curious, so I went looking around and ran across the following link. I thought you and your readers might find it interesting:

    Everything you never knew about Noir and more.

    Happy new year,

  6. Write noir?

    I can't even pronounce it!

    This is a classic, all-time post.

  7. Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?

  8. You guys are great for taking the test! And I'll put an explanation of some of the answers up later. If I ever wake up. I only remembered today was blog day for me around midnight last night.

  9. p.s. Charles, I bet Marion Davies' you-know-what cares. I, apparently, don't, as I keep spelling it like DAN Aykroyd.

  10. I adore the image of Nancy Drew getting thrown off the hay truck. She deserved it too. Always bitching.

    And er, I believe the real answer to 14 is
    "It was the name of a man he shot in Reno, just to watch him die"

    Have you ever seen/heard of a sitcom that happened in the early 90s called "Anything But Love"? It's one of the only ones i ever like (sitcomly speaking) and starred Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis. In the pilot, JLC does this amazingly funny take-off on "my sister, my daughter" with such impeccable timing. (I know this because while we planned yesterday to perform sacred hallowed tradition of "Chinese food and movie" the very $*@$%^(*!Q&%#$(* second we left the house, white stuff began falling. We came home, reheated YESTERDAY's Chinese food and watched the DVD with "ABL" first season. God good parody is wonderful, innit? Even for a moment.

    Diane Duane, btw, wrote "So you want to be a wizard" which strikes me as an excellent career choice.

    Er they need explanations? Oh, i've been around too long if i don't need explanations. Perhaps it is time to take up reading a new genre.

    "No phone, no pool, no pets...."

  11. But, I don't want to memorize Bukowsky ;-)

    This was fun, and a nice break from all the chestnuts and open fires....

  12. I got all the answers right. Do I get some kind of prize?

  13. I can't figure out how to get to the answers. I mayv=be tres noir, but white on white I cannot find.

  14. Becky, click and highlight the blank bit, and the white will show up against the blue highlighting. If you want to print it out, copy it to a Word file and then highlight it again and change the text color back to black via your formatting bar or menu.

    Let me know if that doesn't work... good luck!

  15. Patty and Andi, I'm so proud that you got them all right! Plus I feel slightly less obscure now....

  16. Actually tonight, I'd settle for Pinot Noir....

    Usual GREAT post Cornelia.


  17. Cornelia never ceases to amuse (amaze) me. I've been away from home over a week, searching for that mystical White Christmas, so I'd better return home and memorize Bukowsky with my score.

  18. Cornelia-
    It worked! And I'm just as noir as I need to be, which is as dark as my favorite chocolate-85% pure.

  19. The answer to the first but unnumbered question: I do! It was Fran Lebowitz. Luckily, I could confirm with my well-thumbed copy of "Metropolitan Life." Never did get a callback for the Pope job, though.

    Thanks again for the Mystery Scene interview, Cornelia. And since my deadline is today, I'd better finish writing it up...