About Curiousity Killed the Katz...
I started the author’s note for this fic, but the note never seemed to end. There was so much to write about the process for this story, so many sources to acknowledge, that I thought I would put it in a post here and get on with the story instead. Special thanks to shawarma-palace for donating and the prompt!
My first thought was a piece with Jimmy and Zeller being held hostage, and all the noir elements were to be imagined by one of them. The result would be a neo-noir piece, distinct from noir because it calls attention to the conventions of the genre. It’s a genre I know.
I felt that was a cop-out though. The prompt had called for noir, and I took that to mean traditional noir: dark alleyways, urban landscapes, crimes of passion, melodrama. I also thought immediately of having a hard-boiled detective, because almost all my encounters with noir – mostly film, I must admit – have starred a hard-boiled detective. Mix that with mandatory Team Sassy Science, and I immediately thought of Bev. She was going to be the hard-boiled detective, with Price and Zeller providing her with back-up (and, as it turns out, the occasional neo-noirism).
My relationship with noir is…complicated. I love the aesthetic, I love the cynical tone, but I find it so hard to communicate that in my writing. My style is very much not-noir. I can wax gothic, feign poetic, and regurgitate purple prose all over the page, but I can’t speak noir or hard-boiled. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea where the story was going. I had to track down sources so that I could conceive of noir in writing as opposed to visuals.
For that, I have to name my sources: Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, possibly one of my favourite novels ever, got me started. I sat down and poured through it one afternoon. I followed that up with Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, a book I didn’t know was in the apartment until the Ally heard my grumbling and found it from among his things. The big resource, though, was https://www.miskatonic.org/slang.html, a dictionary of hard-boiled slang that I peppered throughout my initial drafts of the story (of which there were many). I need to mention The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca (the latter of which I reference at the end of the fic) as cinematic inspiration. Finally, the endless supply of jazz on YouTube: that was what finally got me in the spirit.
Ultimately, there were two competing versions of this story: an earlier, multi-chapter behemoth that deserves mentioning if for no other reason that its length and breadth. This version included a subplot with Mason Verger, one of the few scenes I regret cutting, and otherwise lay the groundwork for the story. I abandoned the project for two reasons: first, I simply would not have the time to finish without seriously damaging the fic, and second, I really, really hated the inconsistencies of the tone. I would have paragraphs of well-rendered noir followed by whole pages of gothic scribblings. There was also not nearly enough of Bev for my taste, and I mean that in terms of her character. Noir tends to be plot-driven, but I lost her in all the plot.
The story that I submitted was seriously condensed. The scene with Freddie was planned for chapter four out of five in the original fic, but it was the scene I really wanted to write. Freddie set such a great tone. I already knew she was going to be a take on the femme fatale figure. Imagining her and Bev sharing a drink, tossing noirisms back and forth: that was what I wanted to be writing. Starting fresh gave me a new perspective on Bev too. I had already suggested in my previous draft that she made the mistake of arresting Chilton as the Ripper. I also got to add the subplot about Miriam Lass being her murdered partner, a dimension that fit her new hard-boiled persona (although I would have loved to beef that subplot up).
All in all, this isn’t a fic I’m ready to say goodbye to. There’s still work I want to put in on it, not to mention the fact that I enjoyed reimagining Bev as the star of her own series of mysteries. I certainly appreciated the challenge (daunting as it seemed at times). It doesn’t help that I set up a sequel at the ending, one I already have a Katz-y title for:
To Katz a Dragon: A Beverly Katz Mystery
Hope to see you again soon with more. Happy reading!