New Genre "Roman Noir" Combines Hot Trends in Mystery

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"Roman Noir," a new genre of mystery fiction, is introduced in Kelli Stanley's debut novel, Nox Dormienda. To be released in July, the book was highlighted in Library Journal's April 15th cover story as a title combining two of the emerging, hot trends in mystery and crime fiction: historical background and the return of the PI/hardboiled protagonist. A published scholar with a Master's Degree in Classics, Stanley envisions Nox Dormienda as the first of a series featuring Arcturus, personal physician for the governor of the Roman province of Britannia in the first century A.D.

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The corpse is cold, the blonde is beautiful, and the detective as hardboiled as a man named Marlowe. Only this detective doesn't pack a Colt or sport a fedora. He wears a toga. And if the mean streets of London are dark with something more than night, it may be because the light bulb hasn't been invented yet.

Kelli Stanley's debut novel Nox Dormienda (A Long Night for Sleeping) marks an intersection of the classical era and classic noir. Set in the Roman province of Britannia in 83 AD, it fuses the resurgent interest in dark, pulp fiction with the consistently popular fascination of Roman history and culture. Stanley calls the style "Roman Noir" [a play on the French term for "dark novel" - roman noir.]

Stanley's novel was highlighted in the April 15th issue of Library Journal, one of the "Big Four" publishing industry trade magazines. In the concluding paragraph--"Roman noir, anyone?"--of the cover story "Genre Spotlight 2008 'Mystery': The Sound of Crime Fiction," Nox Dormienda is featured as a novel that combines two hot, emerging trends--the historical mystery and the revitalization of the PI/hardboiled/classic noir story. The full text is available on-line:

Noir has enjoyed increasing popularity in both books and film over the last several years, and since Gladiator in 2000, ancient history has reemerged as a viable entertainment genre, most recently in HBO's lauded Rome series.

Stanley's background includes a Master's Degree in Classics. She has been published as a scholar and has lectured internationally on subjects ranging from Roman history to superheroes. The mixture of scholarly historical background and pop cultural phenomenon comes naturally - at one time, she owned a comic book store.

"If you look at how Rome resonates within popular culture - films like Spartacus or Quo Vadis or Gladiator - you find that it's often a metaphor for America. And no wonder - the Romans are the ancient people we know - and understand, and resonate with - the best. All I've done is make the connection more explicit. In one of his books [film noir expert] Eddie Muller called Rome the first "Noir City." And I thought - yeah. He's right."

Nox Dormienda premieres in hard cover on July 18th from Five Star Mysteries. The title, taken from a line of verse by first century BC Roman poet Catullus, means, according to Stanley, "a long night for sleeping. A night you don't wake up from. In other words, The Big Sleep."

The plot centers on Arcturus, the half native, half Roman private physician and sometime investigator for the governor of Britannia, Agricola. When the body of a Syrian spy is found murdered in an underground temple, Arcturus has a week to determine who murdered him and why before civil war erupts both within the province and with Rome itself.

Stanley conceived it as the first of a series, and hopes its success will warrant further books. The novel has already garnered impressive pre-publication endorsements from New York Times best-selling authors Gayle Lynds and James Rollins, as well as award-winning noir writer, Ken Bruen.

"Rome and noir go together," says Stanley. "All the Romans needed were scotch and cigarettes. She claims she doesn't want people to feel like they're reading history. "We tend to look at the past through a long lens, sometimes with a superior attitude. But these were people, flesh and blood, like your neighbors next door or the grocer down the street. I want my book to make Roman Britain come alive for the reader, alive and visceral and in color - not just crumbling white marble."

Nox Dormienda (A Long Night for Sleeping) will be available on July 18th. For further information about Nox Dormienda or Kelli Stanley please visit For rights queries, please contact Kimberley Cameron at Reece Halsey North Literary Agency (


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