Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane
New York, NY: Akashic Books, 2009
List of short stories:
“Exit Interview” by Lynne Heitman
“Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane
“The Place Where He Belongs” by Jim Fusilli
“Dark Waters” by Patricia Powell
“Femme Sole” by Dana Cameron
“The Dark Island” by Brendan DuBois
“The Reward” by Stewart O’Nan
“The Cross-Eyed Bear” by John Dufresne
“The Oriental Hair Poets” by Don Lee
“The Collar” by Itabari Njeri
“Turn Speed” by Russ Aborn
Boston Noir 2: The Classics, edited by Dennis Lehane, Mary Cotton, and Jamie Clarke
New York, NY: Akashic Books, 2012
List of short stories:
“The Marriage Privilege” by Chuck Hogan
“Night-Side” by Joyce Carol Oates
“Home Sweet Home” by Hannah Tinti
“Surrogate” by Robert B. Parker
“Mushrooms” by Dennis Lehane
“Lucky Penny” by Linda Barnes
“Blanche Cleans Up” [excerpt] by Barbara Neely
“The Balance of the Day” by George V. Higgins
“Bait” [excerpt] by Kenneth Abel
“Townies” by Andre Dubus
“Driving the Heart” by Jason Brown
“The 5:22” by George Harrar
“Infinite Jest” [excerpt] by David Foster Wallace
“At Night” by David Ryan
I write briefly here about two publications by Akashic Books, Boston Noir and Boston Noir 2, mostly because I want to introduce noir fans to Akashic Books and its noir series. I think that fans of noir literature across the country and around the world will be able to find a short story collection at Akashic Books that takes place in a locale they know well.
Akashic Books has published a long list of books that collect noir short stories mostly, but not always, according to geographic location. For more information about their books and forthcoming titles, click here.
What I love about these two books, these two short story collections, is that I can recognize the locales. Each story is set in a Boston neighborhood or a city or town just outside Boston. And the presentation fits the subject: Each book comes with a map on a two-page spread that shows each neighborhood or town where a short story in the collection takes place, and each location is marked with the drop-out white form of a dead body.
The presentation isn’t the only detail to love about these books. The writing, of course, is the main draw.
I want to try other books in Akashic Books’ noir series, and I have already started Providence Noir. The noir series is such a wonderful idea: Anytime I want a quick noir fix (and who doesn’t?), I can pick up a short story in one of these collections.
◊ Boston Noir: All the stories in this collection are superb. It’s hard, however, not to have favorites. I especially enjoyed “Femme Sole” because it’s colonial noir set in the North End, and “The Dark Island” because it takes place when film noir was at its peak, right after World War II. Of the two short story collections, Boston Noir is the one that I enjoyed the most and can recommend without reservation. And if you’re from Massachusetts, you’ll enjoy it all the more.
◊ Boston Noir 2: According to the “Introduction: They Look Like You and Me,” the parameters for story selection were slightly different for each Boston Noir book:
. . . Whereas Boston Noir comprised brand-new pieces commissioned for the anthology, our charge here [in Boston Noir 2] was to scour the body of Boston literature for previously published short stories and novel excerpts that best illuminate the dark corners of the Hub. (pages 13–16)
I didn’t enjoy Boston Noir 2 as much as the first. I couldn’t finish “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace after starting it on two different occasions. The run-on sentences didn’t draw me in. They were too distracting and made the story too hard to follow. And the main characters seemed unlikable. If the story was meant to be from their drug-addled point of view, the story was a success. But it didn’t help me to like the characters or to understand the story.