It's been almost 20 years since neo-Noir fiction writer Will Viharo began tapping away at the keys on his old typewriter, each stroke a meager step towards his first Vic Valentine novel, "Love Stories are too Violent for Me". It was that novel, born of Viharo's creative gears and his life's encounters, which started off a string of increasingly gritty, lowdown, dirty, irrevocably human stories featuring his greatly flawed yet greatly admired modernized gumshoe shamus, in incomparable Vic Valentine.
And what a start it was, full of piss and vinegar, thunder and blood, wracked with pain and drizzled with cheap booze under a foggy San Francisco backdrop. There is was, for all to see and read and recover from. A modern masterpiece in the old-fashioned vein or Chandler, Spillane or Hammett with an uncompromising sting of old-school punk and 1990s grunge.
Neo-Noir, he calls it. A combination of vintage mystery styles and modern-day pop pulp, never straying from that time-honored truth: NOIR, the darkest of the dark side of the human condition.
This is where Viharo excels. Not with cliché shots from behind a curtain, not with a rehashing of the quintessential dame in black stockings seductively smoking a cigarette under a neon sign. No, he excels in his own brand of truth, in modern realism with just a hint of fantasy. In laying it all out there, palms up, naked in front of the world for the masses to see. It takes guts to expose your most private inner thoughts on sheets of bleached paper (or a digital page). Viharo does this, in an unforgiving and unapologetic way. Take it or leave it.
At least one person of note glanced at this book years ago and decided to take it - literally, as he bought the movie rights almost immediately after reading it. That was actor/producer Christian Slater, who found Valentine's voice so overwhelming real, so close to his own, that he had to turn the character into a movie roll. At the time of this review, the project is in the works, in advanced early stages of production.
Who is Vic Valentine?
A regular guy, a young guy who is just old enough to have had his heart stomped on, his life turned upside down. He's a transplant from New York City who takes a path, on a longshot, that leads him across the country to San Francisco, a town that he's not in love with but will tolerate as long as it tolerates him. His father was a cop, and with the help of a cop friend he gets set up as a private dick, the kind who clicks snapshots of cheating spouses and finds missing persons who generally don't want to be found.
He's a regular guy with some unusual tastes, with music ranging from The Ramones to Sinatra, a love of cheesy (and classic) old movies, and a tendency to dress a few decades out of style, by choice. He's the kind of cat who complains that he's not a hit with the ladies, while always going after the wrong ones…and doesn't recognize when a chick is actually interested in him. He's got a fairly screwed up past, with family problems and of course the one chick who screwed him royally, and even though it's been six years, he's still not really recovered from this particular chick's departure.
Valentine a regular Joe, hanging out at a somewhat irregular bar that shows old movies instead of sports, when a drunken pro baseball player stumbles in and asks him to find his missing wife. This is where the reader starts to realize that this is no PG-rated book about a 50's gumshoe. It becomes very real, very raw, very brutal. There are beatings and blood and graphic sex and gritty, dirty language, because that's the way these people roll. At times it becomes nearly disgusting, which is an incredible feat for an author to pull off in these jaded times. And as the story moves forward, we are drawn deeper into Valentine's mind, into his most intimate thoughts, until we either surrender ourselves and become one mind with his, or can't stand to go on. Impressive.
The story is unique, and I won't dare give any of it away here. The interactions among characters, the way Valentine attempts to solve this missing persons riddle, and the mistakes he makes (which you see coming a mile away but know there is no way he could make any other choice) all add up to an intense, graphically head-pounding experience. And yet, through it all, Valentine remains real, credible, likable.
As with most of Viharo's books, this is not for the timid or the meak. It's not a book for kids and it's not a book for innocent spinsters looking for a light read. Think of it as a punk rock version of a Mike Hammer novel. With more violence.
Viharo's writing style shines through in this book, a style that is not dated or difficult to adjust to (like some Noir style detective fiction). It's easy and cool, like listening to a guy in a bar who's just had his second cocktail. No wonder Christian Slater connected with Valentine's voice. It's a strong one, a weak one, a tough one, a whiny one, but most of all, a real one.
-Christopher Pinto, author of the noir paranormal mysteries
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Murder Under The Boards
featuring detective Bill Riggins