The Midnight Promise
Europa Editions, 2013
John Dorn is a lonely private detective who lives in Melbourne. He certainly is a heir to Marlowe and his contemporaries: Dorn lives in his own office, drinks heavy, suffers from being lonely, takes not promising money cases. But Dorn at the same time is our contemporary, not a figure frozen in the past; fedora on his head, the joke on the lip, a gun in his pocket. All the stories in the collection are written in the present tense, and it's just a sign that Dorn is here and now, this is what happens to us. Present tense is a literary device. One story flows into the other, forming a novel in stories, rather than a collection of stories. Each story is a separate case, and all the stories here are in chronological order. With each turn of the page reality is changing for the worse: things are becoming more disturbing and hopeless, and Dorn's life is becoming more and more miserable.
Typically, a private detective is a knight with morality and conscience that prevents his sleep at night. Private eye is the embodiment of a doer, who commits acts to prevent something bad or bringing to justice those who committed this bad. So the stories about private detectives are often written in the past tense: work is done, time for fun. The detective solved a crime, boasted about it, and this boast of a certain kind usually becomes a short story. For John Dorn this is not so. He is also suffering from the pangs of conscience, but he is often non-doer, who refuses, and with his inaction he saves himself and his client. You’d hardly call Dorn a coward (he is against psychopaths and armed private investigators bending the law here), but he can not be called brave, either.
The Midnight Promise offers a ruthless view of modern Australia, about which we know a little, and private investigators from green continent are almost never seen.
Undoubtedly, 99 percent of stories about private detectives are the opposite of noir. The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt is just this one percent, the name of the series World Noir is telling the truth. Do not promise what you can not do.