Over on Twitter a while ago, a friend of mine called my first novel Murder Boy “nerd noir.” Aside from the fact my writing is more pulp fiction than noir fiction I think that pretty much nails what kind of characters I like to write about. It also says quite a bit about who I am as a character myself.
I’ve written other places about my problems with “masculine writing,” particularly the kind that has been manifesting itself lately in the burgeoning country or rural noir field. I don’t work with my hands or fight or wrestle bears or alligators or any of the crap that worshippers of Hemingway like to occupy themselves with. Rather I have the pasty glow of an office cubicle tan, the soft hands of a guy who has never really done any sort of hard work in my life, and the sissy temperament of my aging miniature wiener dog. I spent almost a decade trying to write crime novels with traditionally masculine heroes and failed miserably. It was until I gave in fully to who I am as a nerd that I created a character who resonated with me for an entire book (and so far most of a sequel).
Losers have always been popular in crime fiction, particularly in the hardboiled school. But even the worst losers always had something dark or cool about them and there was always a sense of impending doom with these losers. I decided to make a different kind of loser the hero of my first novel, Murder Boy (available now!). Instead of making him a sad-sack, he’s more of a dork with a sense of optimism and fun about him, regardless of how misguided it might be. Dominick Prince is aware he’s a loser but he doesn’t want that to define his life and he spends most of the book trying desperately to avoid the fate of hardboiled losers. He also throws up. A lot. To the point that a number of reviewers have mentioned it. He also pees his pants at least twice that I remember. This ain’t Parker or Lou Ford. Hell, he’s not even as tough as Dortmunder. And I like that. It’s what I relate to. It’s my reality.
I’ve defined myself as one of the dorks of the crime fiction community. I love the cheesier aspects of our genre and have some fundamental problems with many of the canon classics. I have a sense of optimism about my work, about the genre, and about the industry that many others don’t and I think that’s helped me with the 15 years of struggle and rejection it took to get me where I am today. So I may wear silly t-shirts, and have dorky tattoos, and drink more soda than alcohol at conventions, but I’m finally being true to who I am and true to the characters I was born to write. If that makes me a nerd, then I’ll let my nerd flag fly high.
Bryon Quertermous is the author of Murder Boy and the forthcoming Riot Load. His short stories have been published in a number of journals of varying repute and he was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award. He currently lives outside of Detroit with his wife and kids. Visit him at http://bryonquertermous.com and follow him on Twitter @BryonQ.