I have always been enamored of hardboiled fiction and the films noir so I rented some 1940s movies in search of inspiration, and sat back to watch.
I thoroughly enjoyed the classics – The Big Sleep, Murder My Sweet, The Maltese Falcon, Out of the Past, The Dark Corner. But the private-detective-as-gin-soaked-Galahad genre had been done to death. How could I top Raymond Chandler and Dash Hammett?
Then inspiration struck when I least expected it.
“T Men” (1947) is not generally ranked in the top tier of the films noir, it doesn’t feature big stars or a name director. But it got my attention.
The film is about Treasury agents who go undercover to track down a counterfeit ring. The grinding tension of constantly pretending to be someone you’re not appealed to me as a mystery writer. One scene in particular crystallized it.
The head T-man is leaving a restaurant with his mobster ‘buddies’ when he encounters an old girlfriend. She greets him by his real name, he pretends he doesn’t know her. The mobsters eye him with murderous suspicion.
I decided to write about such a character, a guy who is always on guard, not so much from fear of a violent death – though that is always a possibility – but on guard from a more existential fear of being ‘found out.’
And who better to embody that than a former spy for the Office of Strategic Services, the World War Two version of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The fear of being ‘found out’ snakes off in all directions, then makes a U-turn in the direction of our hero. Hal Schroeder is forced to ask himself who the hell he really is, and what the hell he really wants.
His search for the answer to that question propels “A Pure Double Cross” to its sensational conclusion.
John Knoerle’s first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, was optioned by Fox for a TV series. His second novel, The Violin Player, won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. His new novel, A Pure Double Cross, is Book One of the American Spy Trilogy. John lives with his wife in Chicago. You can learn more about John Knoerle at www.bluesteelpress.com.
The Story Behind the Book is part of the pre-tour package included with certain tour packages. John’s tour will begin on March 1 and continue until March 30. If you would like to visit his tour stops, visit www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in March.
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