|Sergio Avenia's original illustration for the Vic|
Valentine story "Private Dick, Public Enemy"
In an uncanny case of unplanned resurrection, just like your average zombie apocalypse, a character I created nearly twenty years ago has risen from the dead, at least creatively speaking, and is suddenly at the forefront of my professional fortunes. I'm speaking naturally of Vic Valentine, Private Eye, the neurotic slacker-sleuth protagonist of five novels I wrote in quick succession circa 1993-1995, that is now the subject of a screenplay co-written by myself and veteran Hollywood icon - and now my good personal friend - Christian Slater, who has owned the film rights to this property since 2001 (that amazing story here), and is now fast-tracking the project following our recent rendezvous in Miami (that equally astounding story here.)
|Sergio Avenia's alternate, unused illustration|
for the same story
The irony - or one of many ironies - is that Vic is my dysfunctional doppelganger, a being from an alternate reality only I could have invented, since he is a composite cocktail of several subjective spirits, including parts of my own, mixed with completely fictionalized fragments of consciousness conceived via sheer imagination, inspired by the classic gumshoes of popular culture like Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, as well as the emotionally damaged but candidly astute hero of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield. To call Vic's adventures "neo-noir" is to glorify his self-serving agenda, which is basically to get laid, at least in the short run, though ultimately he's on a self-motivated mission to decipher the biggest mystery of all, at least from his limited perspective: human loneliness and isolation amid an overpopulated planet. Of course, his first person narratives are conveyed (mostly) with a sardonic detachment common to the genre, but any savvy reader who empathizes with his romantic plights, no matter how pathetic or self-aggrandizing, can easily see him as the sentimental sap he truly is, beneath the brash bravado and seemingly invulnerable veneer. I think that's why so many people have been able to identity with Vic - and by extension, his creator - and why I always believed that, some day, some way, he might finally provide more than just literary self-therapy, but also some tangible, lucrative dividends. If and when Christian finally stars in his adaptation of the first Vic novel, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, which will also mark his feature directorial debut, that seemingly faraway fantasy may just become a revenue-generating reality. Meantime, I'm just enjoying the ride. And still plugging away, finally making a living as a writer via my daily blogging for Alphabird. After three decades of blood, sweat and tears, I haven't quite "arrived" yet, but I'm getting close enough to my destination to taste, touch and feel it. But much of my progress has been due to my own proactive pursuits, not just dumb luck - which is still a crucial element necessary for ultimate success.
Over the past year and a half I published all four of the Vic novels that were rotting away in my closet after the publication of Love Stories, in double feature formats: Fate Is My Pimp with Romance Takes a Rain Check, and I Lost My Heart in Hollywood with Diary of a Dick (purchase links and more info on my Fiction Page.) This decision was made both for the sake of cost effectiveness and reader convenience, as well as impatience on my part, frankly. I feel like I've wasted too much time already. Now I'm pouring all my passion into my one man pulp fiction factory, and fortunately, Christian is equally dedicated to his own goal of bringing this story to the big screen.
Years ago I started then abandoned a sixth Vic book called Hard-Boiled Heart. I still plan to finish it, but I will take it in an entirely different direction, partly influenced by recent, real life events: instead of having Vic get get hitched and settle down as I originally intended, the new novel will jump forward in time from the mid-1990s, when the books were written and are set (as the film will be), to now, catching up with Vic in middle-age. A famous movie star (definitely not modeled directly on Christian) wants to make a film about Vic's life and career as the last of his breed, an old school private eye trying to survive in a cold, contemporary world. Vic has always been an anachronism, but never more than than in the increasingly computerized 21st century.
Recently, my friend Jason Croft, editor of Bachelor Pad Magazine, to which I humbly contribute a regular film column, asked me to write an all new piece of short fiction for a very special, one-shot limited issue of the popular pinup magazine, called the "Nightcap" edition, featuring his usual eye-popping lineup of gorgeous cheesecake models, but this once only, posing totally nude, in teasingly tasteful but no less tantalizing layouts. Now, when it comes to writing fiction, I've always been more of a long distance runner than a sprinter, a natural born novelist, but I saw this as a golden opportunity to re-introduce Vic not only to the modern world, but a whole new readership.
And so I wrote a short story - more like a vignette - called Private Dick, Public Enemy, a title that had been kicking around loosely in my head for a while. It is basically the first chapter of Hard-Boiled Heart, both setting up the premise and giving fans old and new a brief but penetrating portrait of Vic Valentine, Private Eye, circa 2012. The world around him has changed, but Vic hasn't. Not much, anyway. I'm very proud to have my first all new Vic Valentine story in 17 years published in such a prestigious publication (at least it's well regarded in my circles,) ensconced in a sensual smorgasbord of vintage voluptuousness.
You can order your copy of the Nightcap edition here, and I suggest you do it soon. Before the movie comes out, anyway.
by Michael Fleming
In my next column I'll report back on our trip down to San Diego for Tiki Oasis 12, August 17-19, where I'll be hosting a symposium on "tiki noir spy pulp cinema," as well as participating in the big book signing with the likes of Shag, selling copies of It Came From Hangar 18 with my co-author Scott Fulks, as well as my personal favorite of all my books, A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge - which was actually excerpted in Bachelor Pad Magazine #13.
Public thanks to Jason for all the exciting exposure - and I ain't just talkin' about my naked honesty...Cheers.