What Kind of Writer Am I? by Lanny Larcinese – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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What Kind of Writer Am I?
I identify first and foremost as a crime writer. Secondarily, I am a noir crime writer but with literary influences. Let me elaborate…

Noir scholars and purists will argue its definition. I listen to none of them. To me, noir is like the blues, a state of mind, a way of seeing the world and its people, and if you possess such a state of mind, as with blues, everything you do as an artist will have that tinge. That’s me all day.

But tinge of what? This: A view of people constantly in a state of struggle to sustain their better angels against natural survival instincts like tribalism, greed, lust, and other deadly sins. Sometimes they prevail in the struggle, often not, and when not, to greater or lesser degrees. All my stories reflect characters in the throes of such a struggle. They could be the good guys and/or the bad guys. The provenance of my stories always begins with such a character, as in my book, Death in the Family.

Donny Lentini is nice, talented, but has an unfulfilled need that screams in his head and heart for redemption. Then, I created plot events to put him under stress, then more stress, then more, and watched as he first flounders, then get his head together and at the climax, we find out if he comes out whole or not. Conventional noir characters often know what they are after is wrong, but they go for it anyway. My characters are not that craven. My characters want to do the right thing, but fate or circumstances won’t let them.

As for literary, I’m mindful of this description of literary writing: Not much happens but a lot goes on. Literary mavens, people partial to lit-tra-toor, will say they like the quality of the writing. I get that. Also, the description is fit—a lot of inner landscape stuff, morality tales, subtle shifts in perception, fulfillment through insight. I joke about it, but truth be known, much of it is also in my stories.

But I am a crime writer, crime/crime, by which I mean not procedural, not P.I., not cozy, not thriller, not any other permutation of the genre now on shelves or soon to be there. That means there will be a few homicides, some bad guys and others downright despicable, things blown up or set ablaze…you know, stuff on the six o’clock news. There will also be a mystery chased by my (anti)hero, not only whodunit but whydunit.

As I do this, as I write, this is where the literary comes in: I love language. I am Italian. We invented opera. It’s a high bar and why I am given to the occasional serpentine sentence written as much for musicality as density of information. But only occasionally. After all, the beautiful aria is made more so by its infrequency. I could break such sentences down Hemmingwayesque, but won’t. Clarity and punch is good, but ain’t opera. In my lexicon, both are possible.

So what kind of writer am I? I am a genre writer, a crime writer with a noir outlook but don’t always write in hard-boiled style. I prefer a graceful style, or as close to that as I can get without sacrificing clarity. This is why I don’t join critique groups. Even editors, I need the support of people who get what I am doing.

I will conclude with this wise and wonderful insight: “All stories have been told, different only in the manner by which they are told.”

Donny Lentini is a talented young man hungry for his mother’s love. To please her, he becomes guardian angel to his mob-wannabe father. When the father is murdered and found with his hands hacked off, Donny is dealt a set of cards in a game called vengeance. The pot is stacked high with chips; the ante, his soul and the lives of loved-ones. With the help of friends—ex-con, defrocked Jesuit Bill Conlon along with former high-school nemesis, Antwyne Claxton—he digs for whether the murder had anything to do with the mob’s lust for a real estate parcel owned by the family of Donny’s lover. He’s new at this game. He doesn’t cheat, but plays his cards well. And he gets what he wants.

Enjoy an Excerpt

There is a purity to poker, moments of truth untethered to motive or morals, moments philosophers never examine—clean moments, as when a Great White draws back its lips and embraces a neck in its four-inch serrated teeth—moments neither Dad nor German Kruger understood.

One by one I looked them in the eye. Everybody dropped except German who raised and called. I flipped my hole cards. “Three cowboys.” Moans from around the table.

I raked in the seven-hundred-dollar pot. Any day I stuck a pencil in German’s eye was a good day.

“What the fuck is it with you?” he said. “You win four, five pots every Friday.”

Dad kicked my shin under the table.

“I know what I’m doing,” I said, clacking chips from one hand to the other. The other guys pushed out their chairs. Dad kept a straight face. In the millisecond his eyes met mine they became beacons warning of dangerous shoals.

German’s pallor couldn’t compete against the crimson flush ringing his flabby neck. He pointed to my father. “You, Carlo, get your ass into my office. And you,” he said, pointing to me, “you need to hear this too.”

He had that same twisted look on his face, the one I first saw two years before when I took him for a thousand fazools over the Superbowl.

He collapsed into his huge leather chair.

The red on his neck and ears turned a deeper shade as if a chameleon lit onto a cranberry bog. “I’m talkin’ about how you let that fucking union get aholt of office cleaners before you brought ’em to us. You get a piece of that, Carlo? You doin’ shit on the side?”

About the Author: Lanny Larcinese ‘s short work has appeared in magazines and has won a handful of local prizes. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s a native mid-westerner transplanted to the City of Brotherly Love where he has been writing fiction for seven years. When not writing, he lets his daughter, Amanda, charm him out of his socks, and works at impressing Jackie, his long-time companion who keeps him honest and laughing—in addition to being his first-line writing critic. He also spends more time than he should on Facebook but feels suitably guilty for it.

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