Nick Chambers (Fog City Nocturne)

Created by the Bay Area Writer’s Group

“Nick Chambers, the detective you turn to when you can’t afford anyone else.”

Now here’s something you don’t see everyday: a private eye created and written about by a collective. The gumshoe in this case is NICK CHAMBERS and the collective is the Bay Area Writer’s Group.

Nick was created, appropriately enough, “over cocktails” by a bunch of writers as a writing exercise in which they could all take part. They came up with a “noir-style anti-hero, with a decidedly post-modern nihilistic outlook that borders on misanthropic.”

They figured out his backstory, agreed on what makes him tick and defined his current situation, and then established two unbreakable rules that all the writers would have to follow.

  1. Thou shalt not kill Nick. But you can beat him to within an inch of death.
  2. No “Big Wins.” When the story is done, Nick’s situation shouldn’t be markedly improved in any permanent way.

They evidently had a lot of fun with it, and they eventually crasnked out a few stories, which were collected in Fog City Nocturne (2006), which boasted the sub-title: “One Detective — Six Authors.”

The stories intentionally stick pretty close to the formula; Nick’s appropriately hard-boiled and down on his luck, struggling to eke out a living on the “cold, dark, fog shrouded streets” of post-WWII (and suitably corrupt) San Francisco. Need I mention the fedora and trenchcoat?

Still, they do promise a “post-modern twist.”

But give B.J. West, the local digital artist and writer who edited and apparently shepherded the project to fruition, his props for sticking to his guns. Not only did he write two of the seven stories in the book, but he cajoled his mother and his father into each coughing up a tale. He was also the man behind the camera for The Smiling Man, a 45-minute film shot entirely in San Francisco. The story is based on the story of the same name by Keoni Chavez in the collection, and stars Chris Hudak as Nick. It also features the author himself and several other members of the Bay Area Writer’s Group.

SHORT STORIES

  • “A Ghost of a Chance” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by Bryan D. Tolin)
  • “The Low Road” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by B.J. West)
  • “The Smiling Man” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by Keoni Chavez)
  • “Ambramelin’s Daughter” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by John R. Mabry)
  • “Mirage Off Market” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by Dale West)
  • “The Knockout in the Leopard Coat” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by Claudia West)
  • “Queen of Heartd, King of diamonds” (2006, Fog City Nocturne; by B.J. West)

COLLECTIONS

FILMS

  • THE SMILING MAN Watch it now!
    (2007, Kelp Entertainment)
    45 minutes
    Based on the story by Keoni Chavez
    Directed by B.J. West
    Starring Chris Hudak as NICK CHAMBERS
    Also starring Derek Halcyon, Keoni Chavez, John Mabry, Bryan Tolin, Roger Quan, Jinx McCombs
    An indie short starring nobody you ever heard of that follows beat-down shamus Nick Chambers through the oddly empty (and very clean) streets of post-WWII San Francisco in search of a man only identified by a photograph, on behalf of a smug, enigmatic client who knows more than he’s letting on. Short on thrills, but long on mood, this low-budget but engaging headscratcher is an enjoyable little spin-off from the previous year’s equally enjoyable Fog City Nocturne collection.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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