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'Slap Noir'

BigBoy Medlin's dark comic novel of West Texas: an excerpt

By Michael Ventura, Fri., July 18, 2014

'Slap Noir'

About James BigBoy Medlin

You climbed a narrow staircase to the office of The Austin Sun. There was always someone working, be it 3am or pm. At peak times (so it seems in memory), everyone talked at once, one or another crucial piece of machinery had just broken down, and a teenage Margaret Moser, in cut-offs and tank top, sat on a windowsill (the only cool spot) eager for whatever came next.

In that environment, I met James BigBoy Medlin. He was still driving a beer truck with his sidekick, an affable and very dangerous carny guy named Clint. Big showed no trace of his excellent education or his battleground wound in Nam. Contrary to his roaring reputation, he was quiet, watchful – in daylight; nighttime was a different deal.

Big and I had some basic stuff very much in common: We were pushing 30 and we thought of ourselves as writers, but we weren't yet published. The Austin Sun was our shot. We were equally devoted to playing that hand for all it was worth.

Fast-forward 30-odd years later – years of living by his wits, typing two-finger style, earning his keep as what I call a "working writer": James BigBoy Medlin sat down in his indescribably decorated garage in Venice, Calif., to write the novels that he was finally ready to face.

As a working writer myself, I can tell you that if you're playing for high stakes it doesn't get much scarier than turning from what you know how to do and attempting what no one knows how to do: write a novel – because if Great Expectations and Naked Lunch are novels, then what's a novel? Big – Mr. Medlin, to you – found himself writing something as funny as it was dark, a tale with no heroes and no answers, that, after many a raucous romp, ends up kind of scary (in a quiet way).

Now that I think of it, Mr. Medlin is kind of like that: raucous, rompish, a good-times cat if ever there was one – and kind of scary, in a quiet way.

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