Newport Noirist Pens New Novel
Paul McGoran is a native Rhode Islander, born and raised in Pawtucket, a child of the tenements in a long-ago era where, he says, the only places offering air conditioning in the summer were movie houses.
It is a long way from where he lives now on Bellevue Avenue.
McGoran’s life reads like the title of John le Carre’s 1974 novel, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” which is a great backdrop for someone cutting his own swath as a noir novelist. His new book is “Made for Murder.”
The author dropped out of Providence College in 1960, worked the next four years as a hospital laboratory technician at the old Providence Lying-In Hospital, joined the Navy in 1965, and was assigned to the all-serviceDefense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where he trained as a Russian linguist.
“My primary duty in those years was tracking the movements of the Soviet fishing fleet, which was involved with the Russian space program,” he said. He returned to Rhode Island in 1969, taking a clerical position at Blue Cross of Rhode Island that evolved into a 29-year career.
He retired, traveled some more, then rode through the financial boom as a day trader until 2001, by which time Wall Street had “stopped laying her golden eggs,” he said. He moved to Newport in 2000.
NTW: How many books have you written?
McGoran: I self-published a novella in 2007, and a volume of short fiction in 2009. After that, I searched for a commercial publisher, finally finding success in 2015 when New Pulp Press accepted “Made for Murder” and “Paying for Pain,” the latter a volume of short noir crime stories. NPP has also accepted a third book, “The Breastplate of Faith and Love,” which should come out this spring. I guess that means I‘ve written five books, but the first two don’t count.
How old were you when you wrote the first?
Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since fifth grade. Over the years, the dream got frustrated by any number of things. In my 60s, though, I ran out of excuses. In late 2005, I joined the Internet writing challenge,National Novel Writing Month, which encourages participants to write a 50,000- word novel in one month.
I credit the experience with teaching me the discipline and craft required for producing salable fiction. I write fiction because it’s the most immersive activity I’ve ever experienced.
It’s about creating a world and living with and through a group of characters that are somehow both you and not you. When they come alive to you, they begin to tell their own story.
Noir fiction has been a style in pulp novels and film since the early ‘40s. What do you bring to this genre that hasn’t already been done by Dashiell Hammett or James Ellroy or Raymond Chandleror 100 others?
It’s not about improving on outstanding writers like those guys. Noir is a genre that focuses on the fallen nature of man and relates a story about the consequences of evil. To qualify, I believe a novel has to include five elements: crime, fatalism, obsession, perversion, and betrayal. In “Made for Murder,” I think I brought a fresh look at the basic noir story.
I related the story from the point of view of several different characters. I think I used more humor. I opened up the narrative by staging the action in six cities, giving it a more epic feel. Finally, I jettisoned the femme fatale trope and created a “fatal man” instead.
What do you bring to authorship from your experience?
After a long business career, you’ve met hundreds of people with wildly different personalities and mindsets. With a little imagination, you have a ready-made gallery of types that you can combine in different ways to people novels and stories. I haven’t used my expertise in Russian yet, but I will.
Why should locals care about this book?
The climax in Newport gives it a dollop of local interest. I think noir has to entertain, and I like to think the book combines noir with the excitement of a suspense thriller.
How does a novelist in 2016 possibly write something new?
“New” is impossible; “fresh” is the goal. The novelist has to realize all the stories have been told, multiple times. But they weren’t told by him. And if he has a fresh take on the Prodigal Son, or the Quest for Power, or any other well-worn tale, he should sit right down in front of his computer and bang it out.