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St. Louis Noir (Akashic Noir) Kindle Edition
|Length: 240 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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1. Abandoned Places by S.L. Coney - Ian's father takes off. Most assume he's dead. The locals think the professionals offed him. But Ian sometimes wonders if his sep-mother of two years killed him. So Ian follows Vickie one night and learns it all. The ending could have been better. (3/5)
2. Deserted Cities of the Heart by Paul D. Marks - This is the tragedy and destruction of a man who meets his femme fatale. An IT guy meets a mousy haired hipster ad his happy but mundane life takes a nose-dive into obsession. Nicely depressing. (4/5)
3. Blues for the River City Colleen J. Mcelroy - There are three black teens and they narrowly escape trouble when sneaking into a whites-only movie theatre. It's the 1950s and mostly just talks about racism; not really a plot to be found anywhere. (0/5)
4. Fool's Luck by Lavelle Wilkins-Chinn - This is the first really good story. It starts off giving background on this African-American family and its quirky members. Then settles on Unk, mentally disabled in the war. Now in '68 the government has sent him a letter saying he'll receive a large settlement since his war work had been the cause of his illness. Now he hooks up with Carla, 20 years his junior, a money-grubbing skank. Nobody in the family likes her, but Unk loves her. She sleeps around etc. and in the end gets hers but not after causing unforgivable harm. (5/5)
5. Attrition by Calvin Wilson - Very short. An A&E reporter is a slacker but good at his job. When a business person is hired as the new editor to get people in line he finds he hates her in a way he's never disliked anyone before. He feels she's bad for the A&E section and we end up learning just what it is that makes him tick. A wicked character study more than plot oriented. (3/5)
6. Tracks by Jason Makansi - This one challenges our perceptions. It's not often we meet a violent female sexual predator in literature. Starting off from the predator's pov we see inside her head, the sick fantasies and then the attack. The end is seen from the victim's pov. Can't say I cared for the story too much but it was unique. (3/5)
7. Four St. Louis Poems by Michael Castro - I hardly ever like poetry even if it's maudlin. (0/5)
8. A Paler Shade of Death by Laura Benedict - This is the first author in this collection I've heard of though had not read her before. Also, this story is twice the length of any others so far. It's a pretty creepy story which never lets you know what has really happened. A woman is moving into a duplex, apparently, she's just gotten divorced, has a retraining order against her going near her old house once she gets her last things moved out today. Oh, her son died some time ago, That's when the marriage started to fail. Now there is a boy across the street who is the age her son would have been now. Is this boy real, a ghost, her imagination? Her son drowned; some people think she killed him. Her ex-husband turns up at her door. What follows is either real, imagined, or a nightmare. (4/5)
9. Have You Seen Me? by Jedidiah Ayres - A man who works clearing out buildings set for demolishment finds a wall of missing posters in a homeless tenement. He starts to recognise some of the kids and has urges to call the numbers on the posters to tell the parents, their kid is ok even if they are dead. When his boss calls him to help him out when he drunkenly kills his girlfriend in a car accident. The boss finds he picked the wrong person. This is pure noir, well-written and keeps you on your toes as it surprised me with where it went. The main character is left being ambiguous so we end up not knowing what he actually is/or may be. (5/5)
10. A St. Louis Christmas by Umar Lee - This is about drug dealers. A vigilante Muslim group whose objective is too rid the streets of drugs hear about a money exchange going down, We learn about Bubba the head of the meth operation and we learn about the backgrounds of the two vigilantes, one Muslim, one Jew. Things happen and the vigilantes, win, I think. I'm not up on all the drug talk or vigilante group names so this was pretty boring for me. Not very exciting, and an ending that made no sense to me. It read well though because of good writing. (2/5)
11. The Pillbox by Chris Barsanti - A naive teenager becomes a skinhead for the uniform and music. Moves to the city, makes a couple of friends, Then he gets involved in drug selling working for "Chicago". Everything is ok until he finds out these skinheads he works for are of the neo-nazi/white pride variety and expect him to join them. He tries to get out of the situation and has to resort to violence. This was ok but again, hard for me to relate to the drug and skinhead culture, having never experienced it. (3/5)
12. The Brick Wall by John Lutz - Now this is more like it. My favourite story at this point. This is the second author I've heard of but again hadn't read before. A good little thriller with a twist ending. The owner of a racetrack enters the current race which includes his friend's son. Someone is killed on the track and the owner is blamed, is sorry, but feels no guilt. A plot is set up to get him making for a tense story, but the twist ending is very good. (5/5)
13. Tell Them Your Name is Barbara by L.J. Smith - This one is about the drug world too but much more enjoyable for me as it involves a murder and the solving of the case. All the characters, good and bad, did drugs so their really isn't a hero here, but the case gets solved and at least one person has the possibility of changing their life for the better. Not a very thrilling ending. (3/5)
14. One Little God-Damn Thing by Scott Phillips - The final story is the editor's contribution and my favourite of the collection. A convict has served his full sentence of thirty years for murder during an armed robbery. He's out now and goes to visit his hometown (where he robbed the bank) not to let anyone see him but to check-up and make sure his sister is ok. He starts by following her husband, the man who was his accomplice and who actually did the murders. Our jailbird had taken full responsibility for the crime in exchange his b-i-l would take care of his sister. Looks like he didn't follow through. This is perfect noir and has a good ending. (5/5)
This particular collection has 14 entries, 13 dark, short stories and one poetic interlude. I recognized six of the authors for a variety of reasons. John Lutz and Scott Phillips are nationally recognized for their work: Lutz for “Single White Female” and Phillips for “The Ice Harvest.” Poet Michael Castro is the City of St. Louis’ Poet Laureate and locally famous before he was awarded the position. Jedidiah Ayres I’ve heard of from writer Joe Schwartz, and L. J. Smith I know from the local writing scene. Calvin Wilson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It was fun reading stories that take is familiar landmarks. The book is broken into four section, much like the metropolitan area itself: the City, the County, and Across the River (Illinois). The poetic interlude speaks to the large network of creative talent that call St. Louis home.
Phillips did a bang-up job with his Introduction: “High and Low Culture.” That describes St. Louis to a tee, past and present.
The collection gets off to strong start with the first story, “Abandoned Places” by S. L. Coney. In this story, after Ian’s father disappears, most assume he’s dead. But Ian isn’t so sure. He follows his stepmother one night and discovers that his father is held prisoner. There is some wonderfully vivid imagery especially involving the slitting of a throat. Without giving anything away (I hope), that one sentence that stood out among the rest was: “The skin gaped on either side, of that opening, giving (deleted to prevent a spoiler detail) a second smile.” This always gives me the shivers.
While “Abandoned Places” was my favorite, my least favorite was “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” by Paul D. Marks. It was rather existential, really didn’t have a plot and mostly seemed to center around loner Daniel Hayden lying under the Gateway Arch.
The rest of the authors cover the bases; it’s all here: a 1950s story about racism that also has no plot, a mentally unstable African-American man after a tour in Vietnam, slackers, femme fatales, divorces, death, missing children, skinheads, ending with a twist, convicts and drugs and drug dealers.
All in all, except for the first story, I felt that all the others were just okay. St. Louis Noir receives 3 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.