I've been immersing myself so thoroughly in film noir and crime fiction lately that I dream about guys in fedoras showing up at my door with guns and threatening to shoot me, right in the belly ('ya don't like it in the belly, do ya, ya squit?'). There's just SO much good stuff out there, and frankly I have a lot of catching up to do. It's been a good fifteen years since I read (and watched) the genre so intently, and all the things about it that I loved then are coming back to me with a vengeance: the stripped down, unsentimental prose (or cinematography), the lack of pretense, the unapologetic nature of the characters. And it's all so character-driven and focused. Between the lines, of course, the best crime novels and films have something worth saying about the world they inhabit or reflect--usually something existential, or even nihilistic, but something relevant, anyway. They tend to show you the world in the way you maybe always suspected it was, in your nightmares.
This has been nothing but good for my own novel, City of Heretics. It's coming along nicely; I'm well into act two currently, keeping it moving, using tricks I've gleaned from the masters-- don't get bogged down, don't get sentimental, don't get soft. Keep the stakes rising higher and higher, don't let up.
Lawrence Block, in his terrific book "Telling Lies for Fun & Profit", said that the definition of suspense is "One damn thing after another". Perfect. That describes the best films noir and crime novels out there. And it's the credo I keep in mind with my own work.
So. Back to work, ya dirty squit.