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A Writer's Life

O'Neil De Noux (born November 29, 1950 in , LA) is a prolific writer of short stories and novels. Although most of De Noux's fiction falls under the mystery genre, he has published stories in many disciplines including children's fiction, mainstream fiction, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, western, literary, religious, romance, humor and erotica.

A working friendship with western writer and encouragement from friend and mentor , helped De Noux become a critically-acclaimed mystery writer and instructor of writing classes at several universities. De Noux has influenced a number of published writers at the beginning of their careers. De Noux's police procedural novels and mystery stories have been lauded for their hyper-, sharp dialogue and strong use of setting, primarily New Orleans. He has also carved a niche with his genre-blending fiction, mixing erotica with mysteries, science-fiction and humor.

Early life

O'Neil De Noux was born on State Street in New Orleans, LA, to a mother of descent and father of descent. Educated in Catholic schools like St. Mary of the Angels, Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Prompt Succor, De Noux was brought up . His father, O'Neil P. De Noux, Sr. (1928-1997) was in the U.S. Army. Consequently, the De Noux family traveled extensively. An army-brat, De Noux lived in Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi and Italy before his father retired and returned to New Orleans in 1966.

While in , De Noux began his life-long love of books and movies. Reading a book a week from the army post library, he saw just about every Hollywood movie produced between 1960 to 1963 at the post theatre. The only exceptions were Hitchcock's and the movies, which his father deemed inappropriate for a pre-teen. He was able to see Psycho at age thirteen, which drew him to greatly admire, and later closely study, the works of Alfred Hitchcock. As a youngster, De Noux's favorite writings were Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey and the We Were There series of young-adult novels, his favorite We Were There At The Normandy Invasion by , before moving on to the Horatio Hornblower novels of C. S. Forester.

On November 22, 1963, while home from school with a fake headache, De Noux watched the TV coverage of the assassination of his hero, President John F. Kennedy, an event which changed his life dramatically. Awakening to the dramatic social changes occurring in the south in the 1960s, De Noux grew to admire Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

Influence of his father

The trauma of visited the De Noux home with telling effects as his father, set to retire in 1965, volunteered for service in Vietnam. A criminal investigator for the , O'Neil, Sr. was promoted to provost marshal first sergeant of the First Infantry Division and followed his combat tours in World War II and Korea (where he received three purple heart medals) with a tour in Vietnam. Shot outside by a Viet Cong , O'Neil, Sr. suffered bruised ribs but no gunshot wound when his bullet-proof vest stopped the bullet. Learning he would not receive a fourth purple heart because he did not shed blood for his country in this shooting, O'Neil, Sr. threw away the flak-vest, declaring, "Next time I get shot, I'm getting a purple heart."

His father retired from the U.S. Army and brought the family to live in the New Orleans suburb of , where De Noux returned to Catholic School at Archbishop Rummel High, where he graduated in 1968. Upon earning a gold certificate as a top English student, De Noux, a faithful fan, listed as his favorite author (to the chagrin of the Christian Brothers). While at Archbishop Rummel, De Noux added , , , and to his list of favorites (after Stan Lee). Reading Ray Bradbury's The Martain Chronicles drew De Noux to science-fiction and inspired him to begin writing. During the next few years De Noux penned twenty of the worst science-fiction stories ever written. He still has the stories and goes back to them to remind himself just how badly he could write.

De Noux's father, a strong influence in his life, rose through the ranks of the Sheriff's Office to command the Crime Scene Division. Upon graduating from high school, De Noux joined the sheriff's office as a police cadet, attending where he studied criminology.

 

Military service

Leaving the sheriff's office in 1970 to join the as a clerk, De Noux was promptly drafted into the Army for in Vietnam. While awaiting shipment to Southeast Asia, angry at being a second-generation to serve in Vietnam, De Noux was shocked when his shipment was cancelled as the gradual reduction in forces began. From California's , De Noux was stationed at the U.S. Army Aviation Center, , AL.

His army MOS was Photographer: Combat Still. De Noux took run-of-the-mill army pictures while expressing himself creatively with black-and-white still-life photos, winning several Best Photo Awards. In later years De Noux's photos adorned the covers of several fiction magazines, as well as the covers of three of his books (LaStanza: New Orleans Police Stories, New Orleans Confidential and New Orleans Irresistible). While at 'Mother Rucker' De Noux earned a Bachelor's Degree in European History from .

With his father a war hero, De Noux felt he'd succeeded in his military service when he was signing out of the army and met his company commander for the first time. His captain declared, "What have we here, a new man?" To which De Noux responded no, he was leaving the army. "How long have you been in my company?" asked the captain to which De Noux advised eighteen months. An article in Stars-And-Stripes topped De Noux's military career as it explained how he managed three years of military service without anyone knowing he was even there. This followed De Noux's earlier election as Senior Most Likely to Remain Anonymous at Archbishop Rummel. By this time, De Noux's affection for drew him to "" authors , , , and , his new favorite writer. He read everything available by Ellison and renewed his pursuit of writing science-fiction with the same results - bad stories, badly written.

 

Police career

For the next three years, De Noux served as analyst for the Regional Organized Crime Information Center in suburban New Orleans. While working the , De Noux abandoned his dream of becoming a successful science-fiction writer. He turned to mysteries and began working on what became a five hundred page, single-spaced manuscript, a disjointed series of stories featuring his first literary creation. Instead of following other New Orleans writers who focused on characters with French surnames, De Noux tapped his mother's side of the family to create his Sicilian-American cop hero, NOPD Patrolman Dino LaStanza. The manuscript depicted the escapades of a patrolman with no central plot. Too episodic, the only encouragement De Noux received from editors was praise for the realistic dialogue and strong use of setting.

From 1977 to 1980, De Noux was a uniformed officer for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, the most rewarding working experience of his life. When promoted to the Homicide Division, De Noux found his calling and finally discovered what he should write about. An exceptional career as a followed in which De Noux solved every murder where he was lead investigator (fifteen) and assisted in over fifty other homicide investigations. In 1980 De Noux completed the Homicide Investigation curriculum at The Southern Police Institute of the .

Earning seven commendations, De Noux was named Homicide Detective of the Year in 1981. Shortly after, he was transferred from Homicide, banished to a quiet police district when a new sheriff was elected. Offered a lucrative position as chief investigator at a private investigative firm, De Noux worked as a P.I. for the next six years. Freed from working double shifts with the sheriff's office, De Noux sat down to pen a homicide novel in 1986.

 

Writing career

Turning Patrolman LaStanza into a homicide detective, De Noux completed Grim Reaper, which was immediately purchased by Zebra Books. Four subsequent LaStanza novels followed, The Big Kiss, Blue Orleans, Crescent City Kills and The Big Show. Lauded for their hyper-realistic portrayal of police homicide work, the LaStanza Series received critical acclaim for its sharp dialogue and fast-pacing. In 1999, a short story collection, LaStanza: New Orleans Police Stories (Pontalba Press), received an "A" book-review rating from Entertainment Weekly magazine. De Noux adapted one of the LaStanza stories "Waiting for Alaina" into a screenplay, which was filmed in New Orleans and broadcast on local TV in 2001.

With the release of Grim Reaper, De Noux met , a talented science-fiction writer living in near obscurity in the French Quarter. Effinger's first book in his Budayeen Series, When Gravity Fails, was just released. A strong friendship developed as Effinger encouraged, then taught De Noux how to write short stories. When Effinger introduced De Noux to his literary idol, Harlan Ellison, De Noux found his mentor. Ellison, the award-winning grand master of speculative fiction took De Noux under wing and remains a strong influence in his writings. In an article about writing, voracious reader De Noux stated, "I read all the time. Then I go back and read Ellison to cleanse my palate, like good wine."

Effinger also introduced De Noux to another of his "New Wave" heroes, , who had just begun writing his New Orleans mystery series of Lew Griffin novels. Sallis later penned the introduction to De Noux's collection New Orleans Confidential.

Shortly after accepting De Noux's story "The Desire Streetcar" in 1991, for their Pulphouse: Fiction Spotlight, the legendary publishing house, (), offered De Noux a job where he trained as an editor. De Noux became the founding editor of two short-lived fiction magazines, Mystery Street and New Orleans Stories. He also succeeded in selling his first science-fiction short story.

Returning to New Orleans in 1992, De Noux began a long association with Louisiana colleges, teaching writing classes (creative writing, short story writing, mystery writing and science-fiction writing) at (1993-1997), the (1998-2005), and (2004-2005). In 1993, De Noux's non-fiction book Specific Intent, a lead title from , became a main selection of the Doubleday Book Club. This true-crime book detailed the intricate police investigation of a murder case which shocked south Louisiana. By the end of the Twentieth Century, De Noux had sold nearly two hundred short stories and had written articles for The Writer Magazine, The Times-Picayune newspaper, Gambit Weekly and Police Magazine.

In 2005, when devastated New Orleans, severely damaging De Noux's home, he relocated with his wife (Debra Gray De Noux, editor of the anthology Erotic New Orleans) to . Taken in by generous patrons of the arts, Anne and Dr. Lee J. Monlezun, De Noux taught mystery writing at , Lake Charles, LA, in 2006. Nearly a year to the day after , De Noux resettled across Lake Pontchartain from New Orleans in St. Tammany Parish.

In March 2006, his short story collection, New Orleans Confidential, featuring N.O. Private Eye Lucien Caye, was published by (Holicong, PA). This collection of 1940s noir stories received rave reviews. From Publisher's Weekly' - "an engaging, fast-paced collection of stories featuring private eye and womanizer extraordinaire Lucien Caye as he tracks philandering husbands, possible murderers and missing cats ... these stories-abounding with ample bosoms and willing women-are fun, and the author knows his stuff when it comes to the Big Easy."

Cementing his niche in genre-blending, De Noux's collection of erotic detective stories, New Orleans Irresistible, was published by EAA Signature Series Books in May 2006. One story in the collection, Death on Denial, previously published in the critically acclaimed anthology, Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, edited by Max Allan Collins and Jeff Gelb (Mysterious Press) had been chosen for the Best American Mystery Stories 2003 Collection (Houghton Mifflin).

De Noux is also the creator of two additional recurring characters, 1890s New Orleans Police Detective Jacques Dugas and contemporary NOPD Homicide Detective John Raven Beau. These characters, along with Dino LaStanza and Lucien Caye, have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies, including top mystery magazines such as Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock and Crimewave (UK). Beau, half-Cajun and half-Sioux, is prominently mentioned on several Native-American Detective web sites.

Now in the 21st Century, De Noux lists his literary influences as (alphabetically): John Edward Ames, Max Allan Collins, Bernard Cornwell, George Alec Effinger, Harlan Ellison, Ken Follett, Thomas Harris, Greg Iles, Alexander Kent, Elmore Leonard, C. L. Moore, Jeff Shaara, James Sallis and Kate Wilhelm. He has also developed a particular affinity for mystery writers Frederic Brown, Howard Browne, David Dodge, Loren Estleman, David Hewson, Wade Miller, Marcia Muller, Max Phillips, Bill Pronzini, Harry Whittington, Charles Willeford and Charles Williams.

De Noux married Debra Gray De Noux in 1992. They have collaborated on a number of short stories. He has two children from a previous marriage. Extremely proud and protective of his children, De Noux describes them as his greatest collaborative effort.

Shamus Award Winner

The Private Eye Writers of America awarded its prestigious Shamus Award for BEST SHORT STORY 2007 to The Heart Has Reasons by O'Neil De Noux (the cover story of the September 2006 Issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine). The Shamus Award is given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The 26th Annual Shamus Awards were announced at Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Anchorage, Alaska, on September 28, 2007. The Heart Has Reasons features De Noux's private eye Lucien Caye.

Derringer Award Winner

The Short Mystery Fiction Society awarded their 2009 Derringer Awards for best short mystery fiction on May 1, 2009. Too Wise by O'Neil De Noux (from the November 2008 Issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine) won BEST NOVELETTE (stories between 8.001 and 17,500 words). Too Wise is a Lucien Caye private eye mystery. The Derringer Awards are given annually to recognize excellence in the short mystery fiction form. Another De Noux story, The Bonnie and Clyde Caper featuring John Raven Beau was nominated in the Derringer Best Long Story category.

 

Bibliography

Novels

        Grim Reaper (1988)

        The Big Kiss (1990)

        Blue Orleans (1991)

        Crescent City Kills (1992)

        The Big Show (1998)

        American Casanova - The New Adventures of the Legendary Lover - Collaborator (2006)

        Mafia Aphrodite (2008 - Line cancelled by Publisher)

 

Short Story Collections

        A Century of New Orleans Mysteries (1999)

        LaStanza: New Orleans Police Stories (1999)

        Hollow Point & The Mystery of Rochelle Marais (2000)

        New Orleans Confidential (2006)

        New Orleans Irresistible (2006)

        New Orleans Mysteries (2009) Kindle Book from Amazon.com

 

Non-fiction books

        Specific Intent (1993)

        Building Believable Characters - Contributing Writer (1996)

 

Selected Short Stories

        The Desire Streetcar

        The Man with Moon Hands

        Slimy Things Did Crawl With Legs Upon The Slimy Sea

        The Murders Along the Rue Frenchmen

        The Purloined Woman

        The Gold Bug of Jean Lafitte

        A Hot and Copper Sky

        Whispers in Walled Tombs

        Fais Do Do

        Murder at Suicide Oak

        St. Expedite

        Friscoville

        Murder Most Sweet

        Her Windblown Skirt

        The Purple Side of Blue

        Lair of the Red Witch

        Tyrannous and Strong

        The Naked Lady of Whispering Gulch

        Love and Murder

        Upon a Painted Ocean

        The Iberville Mistress

        A Gathering at Lake St. Catherine

        Expect Consequences

        Don't Make Me Take Off My Sunglasses

        General Order No. 28

        Tracks of Shining White

        Cruelty the Human Heart

        The Gorilla Murders

        The Silence of the Sea

        Guilty of Dust and Sin

        The Human Dress

        It Rumbled

        Christmas Weather

        Kissable Cleavage

        Maria's Hand

        Unicorns on Octavion

        The Heart Has Reasons SHAMUS AWARD WINNER

        When the Levees Break

        Down on the Pontchartrain

        Ankle Biters of Old Arizona; or, Attack of the Wild Chihuahuas

        Too Wise DERRINGER AWARD WINNER

        The Bonnie and Clyde Caper DERRINGER AWARD Nominee

        Murder Intermezzo

        No. 40 Basin Street

        Pretty Rita

They Called Her The Gungirl

K Love

At a Glance

Hometown: New Orleans

Resides: Covington, LA

Education:

  • Archbishop Rummel High School

  • Troy University