Sometimes a good setting is all an ace novelist needs to pen a memorable story. Give an able scribe a backdrop that is the stuff of fertile literary ground and they can go to work in spinning a yarn that will please their faithful. One such setting, particularly around the middle of the 20th century and particularly for writers of what we now call noir fiction, was a motor court, or auto court. You know, those old roadside motels that were generally found right off highways and that were meant to lure tired travelers in need of a quick, cheap, frills-free stay before they started the next leg of their trek. As I wrote about in an earlier installment of this column, Clifton Adams employed a motor court as primary setting to great effect in his top rate noir novel Death’s Sweet Song. Similarly, Wade Miller very effectively used the same kind of physical grounds as the place around which to base the superb 1956 book Kiss Her Goodbye.
While Adams’s novel has the troubled owner of a motor court as its lead character, the Miller book follows the doings of a pair of guests at one of the inns. Ed Darnell and his little sister Emily wind up at the Quality Auto Court in Jimmock, Calfornia by chance. And while they initially had no plans to remain in their room at the place for more than a night or two, they become long-term visitors.