Attica Locke Makes Her Movie Case

The mystery author explains why A Soldier’s Story is her favorite whodunit.

Attica Locke is the author of Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home.
Attica Locke is the author of Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home.

What’s your favorite classic noir?
My favorite noir is a play adapted into a movie: A Soldier’s Story. The film was released in 1984, when I was 10 and only months away from trying my hand at writing my first stories.

The mystery in this film, and the way it unfolds, has had the greatest influence on me as a writer. It is a whodunit studded with social commentary and history—and ultimately a philosophical treatise on self-hatred, eugenics, and the dangers of moral certitude mixed with absolute power. I learned a great deal about history, felt deeply for the flawed characters, while being sucked in by the pace, location, and a titillating puzzle to solve. This is everything I strive for in my books.

What makes a great noir?
Moral relativity. Characters who are wounded inside and wholly imperfect. The willingness of the author and reader to hang out in the shadows, literally, figuratively, and psychologically. And a setting that’s richly portrayed—with its contradictions and imperfections as well.

Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.

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