Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions.....Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME DOWN)
Garrison Keillor: It was December, a little warm for December, which is gratifying to some and horrifying to others. Minnesota heading for Christmas with weather you'd expect in Alabama. No snow and none in the forecast. The salt mines were laying off workers. The ski slopes were trying to get people interested in the idea of rolling down a hill inside a tractor tire, but it was a hard sell. In the absence of snow, Minnesotans became irrational and of course that meant business for me--
Sue Scott: My husband left his lucrative life insurance business, Mr. Noir, and he's joined a dance company.
GK: He's a dancer?
SS: He's a lifter. He lifts women dancers.
GK: Many of these impulsive moves involved New York City, as you can imagine.
TR (MIDWESTERN): My daughter, Karen Swanson, quit medical school and became a poet, Mr. Noir. Changed her name to Corinna Swann, dyed her hair red, bought a lot of black clothes, and wrote a book of poems: Snow In The Silent Fields.
GK: I see.
TR (MIDWESTERN): Wrote it back when we used to get snow, don't ya know--
TR (MIDWESTERN): And now she's gone off to New York--
TR (MIDWESTERN): Beats me. Great place to visit. (GK JOINS IN UNISON) But I sure wouldn't want to live here. What with all the traffic, and the crowds, and all the noise. I don't know how these people do it. (GK STOPS) -- What'd you say?
GK: Nothing. Just talking to myself--
TR (MIDWESTERN): I got a phone call from her last night and she sounded despondent--
GK: Well, poets get like that, you know.
TR (MIDWESTERN): She said that she was sitting in her hotel room looking out the window and crying...
GK: Well, she's just getting in the mood to write a poem.
TR (MIDWESTERN): I realize I'm being protective, but hey-- I'm a father-- go out and help her, wouldja? Please. It's Christmas. (WEEPY) I can't have my little girl sitting in a hotel room crying at Christmas time. (BRIDGE)
GK: So I flew out to New York to cheer up Karen Swanson, a.k.a. Corinna Swann. I found her registered at the Hotel Julius l'Orange, just off Times Square, a former fleabag since transformed into a haven for rich people with attitude. I was on my way to the elevator, when my eye was caught by the New York Times Book Review -- a headline, "Swann Takes A Dive" -- a review of her book by Colin Williams, the former poet laureate of the United States-- I eyeballed it quickly and it was clear that he wasn't a big fan-- he said the book had one flaw: the print was legible (DING OF ELEVATOR). So I picked up some fruit and champagne and put it on a tray and went up to room 1004-- (KNOCKS ON DOOR) Hello. Room service.
SS (MUFFLED): I didn't order anything.
GK: It's complimentary. Complimentary fruit and champagne.
SS (MUFFLED): What kind of fruit?
GK: All kinds. (PAUSE, THEN DOOR OPEN) A gift from the Hotel Julius l'Orange, ma'am.
SS: Oh. Thanks. You can put it right there on the bed.
GK: Okay. There you go. Would you like me to open the champagne?
SS: No. Not now. I'm not in the mood.
GK: Hey. Is this your book? SNOW IN THE SILENT FIELDS. Wow. I have heard so much about this book. We're passing a copy around down in the kitchen.
GK: I dread the thought of coming to the end of this book. I mean-- I never read poetry -- I mostly just read gun magazines -- I just always associated poetry with gimps and ginks, but I picked up your book and I couldn't put it down -- I only have about three poems to go and I can't bear the thought of coming to the end of it.
SS: That's awfully kind of you.
GK: I hope you're working on more poems because I can't wait to read more-- what else have you written?
SS: This is my first collection.
GK: You're kidding me. Get outta here.
SS: First book. Honest.
GK: Wow. You're a genius. You know that? Could you autograph a napkin for me?
SS: Of course. (SCRATCHING)
GK: Good luck on your next book. I can't wait.
SS: It got a bad review in the Times, you know--
GK: I'll tell you about the New York Times. They have downsized and the whole thing is being cranked out by about fifteen people using two hundred and thirty aliases except for the reviews which were outsourced to some writers in Finland. They're all on amphetamines and they weigh about a hundred pounds and their eyeballs don't focus. Pay it no heed.
Billy Collins: Pardon me. The door was open and I heard someone accuse me of being on amphetamines.
GK: Who're you--
SS: It's him. It's Colin Williams. (SHE BURSTS INTO TEARS) It's the man who tore my book to shreds.
GK: What're you here for, Williams? Haven't you done enough harm?
BC: Do I know you? And where did you get that hideous sportcoat?
GK: The name is Noir, and I'm a private eye.
BC: If you're working undercover, Noir, I recommend you go deeper.
GK: That's enough lip out of you--
BC: Oh yeah? I'm a poet, and before you say anything and make a fool of yourself, remember -- I might just stick you in a bad sonnet and people will be reading about you a hundred years from now.
GK: In your dreams. Williams. Ever hear of Emma Rutherford Gibbs? Huh? Everett Forbes Clayton? Huh? They too were former poets laureate of the United States. Not exactly household names.
BC: Oh go blow it out your nose. I came here to invite Miss Swann to my reading tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Noir. Any objection to that?
SS: I'd love to come--
GK: Hang on, Corinna. Just because this guy is bald doesn't mean he's for real. I'd like to see some personal identification, Williams.
BC: What are you talking about?
GK: Driver's license--
SS: Mr. Noir--
GK: Don't ever hesitate to ask for identification, Miss Swann. Especially of famous people.
BC: Don't push it, Noir.
GK: Let's see your ID--
BC: Hey Back off.
SS: But I know him-- I know him from his book jacket photographs. I've adored Mr. Williams's work since I was a sophomore at Concordia-- (WEEPS) that's why his review destroyed me--
GK: Proud of yourself, mister? Picking on young women? You going to show me an ID or do I have to overpower you?
BC: With what? Your personality? Listen -- if you're smart, Noir, you'll back up and get out of here. Go down to Shraffts and get a pot of tea and some macaroons.
GK: I hate to be the one to tell you, Corinna. Colin Williams is his pen name. His real name is Gamberi. Vito Gamberi. He's the son of Don Carlo Gamberi--the capo di capo of the MFA racket in America.
BC: How did you know?
GK: I have my methods.
BC: Corinna -- listen to me -- I can help you. I can arrange for a job at Harvard, a publishing contract, a Pulitzer Prize. My dad owns the whole show. He built the MFA empire. Creative writing programs in every major university. You charge somebody 25 grand a year for tuition, they sit in a room and write, and after two years they get an MFA. It was a gold mine. We now have a network of a quarter-million MFAs in creative writing across the country, and through them, we're getting into the restaurant and bar business.
SS: But I thought you were a poet--
BC: I am a poet, Corinna. But I'm also a man. And so-- (PISTOL HAMMER CLICKS) hands on your head, Noir.
SS: A poet holding a pistol-- surely this is only meant metaphorically -- (GUNSHOT, SHATTER OF GLASS)
BC: It takes more than a metaphor to bust a lamp, Miss Swann. Come on. I have a car waiting downstairs. Come up to the 92nd Street Y and then out to my place in the Hamptons--
GK: You won't be the first woman he's taken out there, Corinna.
BC: Shuddup. -- Corinna, I loved your poem about longing for something and not knowing what it was -- that poem spoke to me, Corinna -- I feel I know what that something is--
GK: He's a cheater, Corinna. Don't go with him--
BC: One more word out of you, mister, and-- and--
GK: And what, Williams?
BC: One more word out of you and-- I'll--
GK: Come up with something original, Williams. Don't say, I'll fill you so full of lead, people'll use you for a pencil.
BC: One more word out of you and --
GK: Don't use the old Swiss cheese metaphor--
BC: I'll -- open up your-- I'll-- there'll be daylight-- no--
GK: He was searching for a really good phrase, and he turned away, and that was my chance-- I grabbed him (BC: Hey) (THEY STRUGGLE) and I grabbed hold of the gun hand and we sort of waltzed together and (CRASH OF GLASS) suddenly we were on the window ledge (TRAFFIC IN DISTANCE) ten stories above West 44th Street -- (STRUGGLE) and he broke free -- (BC: Tough luck, copper) and he aimed the gun at me and (CLICKS) nothing happened -- forgot to load, huh?
GK: What'd you say?
BC: I said--
GK: You said, Rats. You call yourself a poet and when your gun misfires standing on a ledge ten stories up, all you can think to say is, Rats? That is pitiful-- (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) And he took off running and he leaped (LEAP) onto the roof of the New York Bar Association building (SIRENS OFF) just as the cops arrived --
TR (COP, OFF): Throw down your gun, Williams, we've got you surrounded.
BC: You'll never take me alive, coppers!
GK: I can't believe you said that.
BC: I'll revise it later.
GK: "You'll never take me alive, coppers"???
BC: So what would you say?
GK: How about "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcaste state"? If you're gonna go for cliches, why not good ones? (BRIDGE) He went down a fire escape and leaped onto a garbage truck (TRUCK PASSING) and I followed as close as I could in a taxi (BRIDGE). Hours later we were in Amherst, Massachusetts, and I was chasing him on foot past a school (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) through the children who strove at recess in the ring (CHILDREN, RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) and past a buzzing bee (BEE) in a field of grazing grain and the setting sun (RUNNING) and horses' heads turned toward eternity (WHINNIES) and a field of daffodils and into the woods. -- Better be careful, Williams!
BC (OFF): Oh yeah??? I know whose woods these are.
GK: You think you know--
BC: His house is in the village. He won't see me here.
GK: Why those woods?
BC: They're lovely, that's why!
GK: They're also dark and deep.
BC: Not that dark!!
GK: They're deep though. Why not give yourself up?
BC: Got a long way to go before I do that.
GK: I see two roads diverging there, Williams-- which one are you going to take? The one less-travelled by?
BC: Are you kidding? I'm heading for Vegas. (BRIDGE)
GK: And off he went.....I didn't follow him. My little horse shook his harness (WHINNY, CHUFF, JINGLE) and refused to go. So Williams is still at large. Although sometimes he sends me a poem--
It is what I always wanted, to be a fugitive poet.
I am nowhere and so I am everywhere.
Having escaped you, I am now looking over your shoulder.
You will see me in every shadow and hear me whenever the floorboards creak.
I am like Walt Whitman. Inescapable. Omnipresent.
GK: I sit here on the 12th floor of the Acme Building and I put on a Stan Getz record (BREATHY SAX) and I try to take my mind off him but I can't. He's out there, luring more and more people into the Cosa Nostra Poetica -- MFA stands for Mafia Family Associate -- and they're taking over the restaurant business at a time when fewer and fewer Americans know how to cook -- and sooner or later, I am going to have to find him and put him behind bars.
BC (REVERB): Wherever women sit at the window weeping, I am there. Wherever people order a salad with dressing on the side, I am there. Wherever people need garbage disposed of or concrete poured, my dad and I are there.
GK: I'll get you, Williams, if it's the last thing I do.
BC (REVERB): Ha ha ha ha ha. (EVIL LAUGH, UNDER...)
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions.....Guy Noir, Private Eye.