PANDORA DU NOIR
Remember Pandora’s Box?
According to Greek mythology, when Zeus, the god of Sky and Thunder, discovered Prometheus’ theft of the secret of fire, he decided to punish humanity. His plan? For starters, Zeus ordered a daughter from Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship. Hephaestus molded a woman from clay, and petitioned the gods to endow her with every seductive gift. Athena clothed her, Aphrodite blessed her with beauty, and Hermes bestowed her with charm. Zeus named her Pandora, meaning all-gifted or all-giving. He presented Pandora to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother, along with an exquisite, ornate box, and warned them never to open it. Not even one tiny peek. Ever.
In addition to beauty and charm, however, the gods also gifted Pandora with an intense, insatiable curiosity. Time passed, and Pandora waited – and waited. The moment arrived when she couldn’t find a reason not to open yet another gift from – yawn – another god. So, Pandora opened the box. To her horror, every disease, scourge, pestilence and curse escaped to afflict mankind. Though she struggled mightily to seal the box, every form of evil had already disbursed. Only the Spirit of Hope remained in the bottom of the box, now destined to be both a curse as well as a blessing. Frightened and sad, Pandora feared her father’s reproach. But, Zeus wasn’t a bit surprised. When the story began, he knew, indeed hoped, it would end in tragedy.
In fact, this story line harkens to the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and the original apple. Again, the creation of a woman with seductive qualities, (and insatiable curiosity,) leads to the punishment of humanity.
In noir novels, the characters are doomed before we meet them. Otto Penzler, mystery writer and editor says it best: “They couldn’t find the exit from their personal highway to hell if flashing neon lights pointed to a town named Hope.” But following their descent is what makes the mystery, as we observe their entanglement in a web of their own making. Noir addresses themes such as isolation and disillusionment, and motives such as jealousy, greed and lust, as well as resilience in the face of adversity. Though happy endings are not required, justice is served.
The next time someone tries to give you an apple or an exquisite, ornate box, what will you say? Remember, the choice is always yours – or so it seems.
Until next time…
In ’68, the hot smoke and cold eyes of ’Nam stalked ELVIN SUGGS. Now, a blonde in a tight dress and a silver Cadillac has captured his heart, and he doesn’t want to run. Lonely and eager, he trails the temptress with a shady past, rife with corruption and lies. She’s the girl with the Tennessee Plates.
Click here for my latest interview about “Bitter Rendezvous” or see past interviews:
- The Writers’ Lens: Murder at the No Tell Motel – an Interview with
Claire Applewhite and Giving Away St. Louis Hustle
- 2012 Writers Alive by John Byk
- Thom Reese, author of The Empty
- Jerry Peterson
- Catherine Rankovic
- Guest Blog with Peter Green
— Claire Applewhite