Johnny Dollar and the Stanley Springs Matter, Scenes 2 & 3
Setting and Main Characters:
Johnny Dollar hops off the bus in Stanley Springs. Most likely, very few passengers got off with him. Stanley Springs isn’t exactly a tourist destination. It’s a company town. It has one industry only and the businesses in the town are really just there to serve the employees of that company.
Johnny has arrived undercover, pretending to be a journalist. Sometimes when the police go undercover, they might even get involved with a gang of criminals. They might even have to commit crimes to prove themselves to the gang. Johnny doesn’t go that far, but his cover is a good choice. As a journalist, it makes sense that he is asking questions and snooping around the place. He’s hoping he doesn’t alert suspicion. He hopes the company carries on with ‘business as usual’ so that he can see what it is that they are up to.
As soon as he arrives, Johnny starts to meet people. The first is Ann, a nightclub singer. She’s very friendly, but why? Is she hoping Johnny is a detective come to help them, or is she a company spy?
The next day, Johnny goes to the Stanley Springs company and meets the manager, Norman Steger. Steger, in turn, introduces him to the chief clerk, Phillips and the shipping clerk, Childs.
When you meet someone for the first time, you make associations, likening him or her to someone you’ve met before. That may be based on their looks, their body language, how they interact with others, even their voice quality and tone. Because they remind you of someone else, you wonder if they are like them in other ways too. For the time being, you slot them together with that similar person in your mind. Our brains like to organize new information to help us remember it, so slotting someone with other people he seems to be like is a normal first step. Our working hypothesis is that they are alike in other ways as well.
Can you trust your first impressions? How reliable are the opinions you form on your first meeting? They can prove helpful or misleading. Are you open to changing your initial opinion of someone? What about a detective like Johnny Dollar? Should he be confident that his first impressions are right?
Listen and see what you think of Johnny’s first impressions of Stanley Springs and some key people there.
I’m especially curious to hear what you think of Anne – Is she going to be a help to Johnny, or is she trapping him? In hard-boiled detective fiction, there is often a beautiful woman who becomes the detective’s love interest to one degree or another. He is drawn to her, but he knows she could be a trap – someone tricking him into revealing who he really is, who he’s working for, and what he knows. She might even lure him into a dangerous place where is beaten up or killed. This kind of role is called the ‘femme fatale’. The label comes from French, but it is quite similar to English. ‘Femme’ reminds us of the English words ‘ female’ and ‘feminine’, so this means she is a woman — a very sexy, feminine woman. And ‘fatale’ means ‘fatal’ in English. So getting involved with her could be fatal — it could result in your death. She’s getting herself too involved to be neutral, so she must be either good or bad. Is Anne a victim or the femme fatale?
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After you listen:
Well, you, along with Johnny, have now met the key people. What do you think? Who can he trust? Can he trust Anne, or is she the ‘femme fatale’? Who do you think wrote the note that started this whole investigation anyway? You probably have your suspicions, but how can Johnny find out for sure? Leave your comments below.