Service industry no mystery to local author and bartender

Troy D. Nooe
Troy D. Nooe

Captain Jeffery Spaulding might register with a few hardcore movie and theatre buffs as the moniker taken on by Groucho Marx in the classic comedy, “Animal Crackers.” The name Captain Spaulding was also co-opted by filmmaker/musician Rob Zombie for a strange clown character in his films, “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects.”

But CJ Spaulding also lives right here on the Grand Strand in the person of local author Troy D. Nooe.

Nooe has a series of mystery novels under his belt focusing on the Myrtle Beach of old and featuring a quirky private detective by the name of Frankie McKeller, “a low-budget gum shoe out of Baltimore.”

In “The Ocean Forest,” the first of Nooe’s “Murder in Myrtle Beach” series, McKeller finds himself on the Grand Strand for the wedding of the guy who saved his life during World War II and becomes thrust into a murder case when a prominent wedding guest winds up with a bullet in his brain.

The series also includes two other novels featuring McKeller – “Damn Yankees” and “Long-Legged Rosie.”

“The Ocean Forest” was a top-five finalist for a national Shamus Award, an annual honor recognizing outstanding achievement in private eye fiction.

Nooe has also been a bartender for more than 20 years.

And it is through decades in the service industry that CJ Spaulding came about – first with last year’s release of a book called “Life Behind Bars: An Irreverent Guide to the Restaurant Industry” and now the Bar Buzz Podcast, which just hit the 36-episode mark.

“Life Behind Bars” is part collection of war stories and part advice for servers and bartenders as well as customers – but all of it quirky, and as the subtitle states – irreverent.

“I had the murder mystery series and I had a little bit of success with it here and there. ‘Life Behind Bars’ was originally written two pages at a time, just to pass out to my friends at work,” he said.

This started when he was working at Liberty Brewery & Grill at Broadway at the Beach. He said a lot of this had been sitting on his computer for years, but he finally reworked it into a viable book.

Obviously, “Life Behind Bars” is wildly different from the “Murder in Myrtle Beach” series. And Nooe didn’t want to alienate the people who were already reading his mysteries, so It made sense to use a pseudonym.

“I don’t want to ruffle any feathers,” he said.

But this anonymity is a bit shaky.

“If you look at the back of the book, I’m wearing gag glasses, but in the end, I’m like, ‘It’s a secret identity, but if you wanted to look up Troy D. Nooe…,’” he said.

It’s true. Everything is linked on Amazon for the world to see.

Nooe got hooked on podcasts when he got an iPhone. Soon, he couldn’t shake the notion that he wanted to do a podcast himself.

The original idea was to do a podcast on writing, but this morphed into what became the Bar Buzz Podcast. His co-host is also a service industry veteran, and uses the name Ryan for the podcast to ensure that he can speak freely on the show. Let’s just say that some establishments might find the content in Bar Buzz to be a bit disconcerting.

Bar Buzz uses “Life Behind Bars” as a model for the podcast.

Nooe prepared for Bar Buzz by listening to podcasts about podcasting, and after buying some gear – including an old Shure SM58 from a musician friend who had used it 20 years ago – installing audio recording software called Audacity on his PC and setting up a podcast hosting service called Libsyn, he was essentially good to go.

“It’s easier than you think, and I figured it out as I went along,” he said.

But there were hiccups along the way too, like the time they recorded an entire episode before they realized one of the cables wasn’t plugged in.

“When we listened to it, it sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I had no idea what I was doing.”

Friend and former coworker Lauren Henry said the Bar Buzz Podcast is a true representation of what crosses every service industry worker’s mind at some point or another. Some of her stories have been included as source material in the show as well.

“It’s all so true,” she said. “The way he tells the stories is exactly what I gave him. He doesn’t ever pad them to make them funnier, but the way he says it makes them so much funnier.”

Originally from Baltimore County, Md., Nooe served in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne for four years, stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He attended community college before the Army, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) afterwards, and after a couple of switch-ups, majored in photography. He left school when he and a friend opened a photography studio outside of Baltimore.

“I figured I was doing this professionally now, so I really didn’t need the degree,” he said.

He arrived on the Grand Strand 20 years ago when his now ex-wife took a job transfer opportunity.

Nooe is the father of three: Emily, 23, Greg, 20, and Andrew, 16.

He said he never meant to be a bartender for so long, but it has always been a way to keep a steady income – especially here in Myrtle Beach.

“There really are not that many opportunities outside of the service industry,” he said. “I had experience, ended up in a good place and make a pretty good living.”

Public speaking is a big part of book promotion, and Nooe said he has grown a lot in this respect. His first speaking experience was for an event called The Moveable Feast, which is an ongoing series of luncheons featuring authors of all stripes organized by Linda Ketron of Art Works in Pawleys Island. The events are take place weekly at designated restaurants along the Grand Strand.

“I did three of these now, but the first time, I was so nervous that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was tossing and turning, and it was horrifying,” he said.

He said he dreads these events right up until he starts talking, and then he’s usually fine.

“I get this little kind of adrenaline rush about halfway through it, because when you look around, you can see them paying attention – and you can tell when you’ve got them. I’m not the greatest speaker, and I kind of set myself up to downplay it,” he said.

He carries a set of index cards to these events.

“I pull them out and say they are my notes for what I am going to say, but when I write, I’m never good at following an outline – and when I talk, I’m not very good at following cards.”

He hasn’t looked at those cards for two years.

Ketron was on vacation when Nooe did his first Moveable Feast event in support of “The Ocean Forest,” but said she heard enthusiastic reviews when she returned, and that subsequently the “Damn Yankee” and “Long-Legged Rosie” events have also been well-received.

“Troy is a charmer. Not as hard-boiled as Mickey Spillane, but funnier,” she said. “His sarcastic Yankee Frankie resonates with all the Grand Strand transplants, most of whom are products of the 40s and 50s. He captures the postwar boom era along with the sordid underbelly that always accompanies new opportunities. Even when he's brutal, there's the innocence of a less complicated generation. We look forward to his next adventure - Frankie's and Troy's.”

Nooe drove up to Columbia to appear as a guest on Walter Edgar’s Journal, which aired on South Carolina Public Radio.

“It was an hour-long interview with Walter Edgar and they played it on NPR. He’s a super-nice guy, but I always bring that up when I am talking about things, and I go, ‘I did an hour-long interview with Walter Edgar. My friends don’t even like to talk to me for an hour.’”

He’s working on a new book – this time a modern-day mystery novel.

“I don’t want to get pigeonholed into the old noir genre,” he said. “I love writing it, but I want to branch out a little bit – but I definitely want to come back to Frankie McKeller.”

This might include a final installment set in 1974, the year the iconic Ocean Forest Hotel was demolished – and McKeller comes out of retirement for just one more case.

“I figured the final scene is going to be Frankie and the bad guy inside the Ocean Forest Hotel just minutes before it is imploded. One of them is getting out alive, and the other is going down with the hotel.”

If You Listen

Tune in to his podcast: