We’re so pleased to welcome author Damon Suede today on the Pent Up blog tour. He’s joined us to chat a bit about noir fiction, and don’t forget, you can enter for the chance to win a signed print copy of the book by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.
Tough Guys: the homoerotics of noir
by Damon Suede
Pent Up started out as a fun, fast project built around the idea of secrets and obsessive desire. Last year, I’d been wanting to write a romantic suspense, and the idea of a moody bodyguard story started to gel in my mind in stark images: rain-slicked streets, dark suits, and a sleek penthouse crammed with conspiracy. I wanted something shadowy and sexy aggressively male in the exaggerated mode of midcentury cinema.
Besides that, bodyguard/billionaire sounded like a blast to write and tailor made for an intense out-for-you. From the get-go I had a solitary hero brooding about his shady past, a polished target with a zillion dollars and no sense, and intense attraction that endangered both of them. I could see it all right up front: the penthouse at night and the two guys circling each other warily a half mile above Park Avenue. After about two days I realized that the story wanted to be a kind of neo-noir romance.
Film noir grew out of the gritty crime stories published in pulps in the early part of the twentieth century. Focused on paranoia, seduction, and a sense of looming menace, these movies revolutionized Hollywood during the studio era. They were cheap to produce, easy to cast, and walked a fine line between sleaze and restraint.
In the runup to World War II, an influx of European cinematographers and directors turned these cheap potboilers into highly stylized, urban dramas that revolutionized crime genre by introducing sexiness and explicit violence. Modern films like Blade Runner, LA Confidential, Bound, and Sin City expanded on that lexicon. The archetypes of noir have leaked across entertainment: femme fatales, grizzled detectives, chiaroscuro lighting… high stakes and low morals set in nighttime cities where everyone is crooked and you can’t trust your eyes.
Because Pent Up was a bodyguard romance, voyeurism and violence were gonna factor in a big way, right? Two men forced into intimate proximity hiding their flaws and misdeeds from each other. Adding real threats accelerated that process and turned unexpected attraction into something perilous. Ruben was escaping a divorce and alcoholism. Andy felt trapped and hunted in his glass tower. Each of my heroes had spent his life playing a role to survive…and though neither has been with a man, their fantasies overlap in explosive ways.
Since I imagined the book as a gritty Out-for-you story, I wanted to play on the tough guy personas of film noir: kingpin and bulletcatcher, thug and victim, suit and brute. So often noir stories play with intense male loyalty and betrayal. They’re intensely erotic and anxious…Sure those old films focus on the ladies, I could see no reason why I couldn’t crack open the woozy danger to look at the passionate homosocial bonds under noir storytelling.
In the end, my heroes spent a lot of Pent Up crashing together in the dark. NYC high society peaks at night, and Ruben and Andy waded in: swanky parties and tactical socializing. Night is also a lonely time and ripe for crime. Not for nothing do many film noirs never show sunlight. Water played a huge part too, because of the ways they find ways to spy on each other: in the shower, the pool, the rain. Wetness wound up carrying even more weight for Ruben, because as a recovering alcoholic, his thirst is literal and painful.
To work as a romantic suspense, Pent Up had to allow for a happy ending in a way that film noir almost never does. Ruben and Andy knew their own failings, and might be able to outgrow crappy habits. The more they groped towards each other the more they demolished the lives they had prior to meeting. In a classic noir, that would have left them both devastated, in a gay romance it made for a entertainingly rough road to that happily ever after.
When I’m writing romance I love exploring fantasies and stereotypes. Noir offers plenty of both in an aggressively macho environment. All that moodiness and menace made for an obsessive attraction and constant escalation. Ruben and Andy’s love story gave me a terrific opportunity to investigate the noirish possibilities of two self-identified straight guys staggering together under extreme duress…and took the book to all kinds of unexpected places.
Blurb: Pent Up: mix business with pleasure and take cover.
Ruben Oso moves to Manhattan to start his life over as a low-rent bodyguard and stumbles into a gig in a swanky Park Avenue penthouse. What begins as executive protection turns personal working for a debonair zillionaire who makes Ruben question everything about himself.
Watching over financial hotshot Andy Bauer puts Ruben in an impossible position. He knows zero about shady trading and his cocky boss lives barricaded in a glass tower with wall-to-wall secrets and hot-and-cold running paranoia. Can the danger be real? Is Andy for real?
What’s a bulletcatcher to do? Ruben knows his emotions are out of control even as he races to untangle a high-priced conspiracy and his crazy feelings before somebody gets dead. If his suspicions are right, Andy will pay a price neither can afford and Ruben may discover there’s no way to guard a heart.
About the Author: Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.
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