Book Review: USA Noir edited by Johnny Temple
Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it. This was an Advanced Reading Copy, and small changes may be made in the final product.
“Noir”, here, is short for noir fiction, a form of hard-boiled crime fiction by analogy with the cinematic film noir. Noir fiction tends to focus on the seedier side of life, filled with petty criminals, people driven to extremes by circumstance, and bittersweet at best resolutions. Akashic Books has been putting out anthologies of noir short stories grouped by location since 2004, and this is a “best of” collection.
The stories are grouped by themes such as “True Grit” and “Under the Influence”, and range across the continental United States. (Yes, that includes the Twin Cities.) Most are contemporary (one has Google Maps as a plot point) but there are a couple of period pieces set in the 1940s and Fifties.
Some standout stories include: “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane (a man finds an abandoned puppy, and decides to keep it), “Run Kiss Daddy” by Joyce Carol Oates (a man does not want to upset his new family), “Mastermind” by Reed Farrell Coleman (a dumb crook comes up with the perfect crime), “Loot” by Julie Smith (various people try to cash in on Hurricane Katrina), “Helper” by Joseph Bruchac (revenge comes looking for Indian Charlie, but he’s no pushover) and “Feeding Frenzy” by Tim Broderick (in comic book format, a Wall Street firm has lost a big contract, and the employees search for someone to blame.)
Thirty-seven stories in total, 500+ pages of entertainment. There’s also a list of the other stories in the volumes these were reprinted from, and a list of awards the series has garnered.
If the genre is not warning enough, I should mention that sordid violence is common in these stories, and some may be triggery.
Overall, the stories are of good quality, and represent an excellent cross-section of today’s noir writers. It’s good value for money.
Update: “Animal Rescue” was turned into the 2014 movie “The Drop” starring Tom Hardy; here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy_ogNiryZ8