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News & Features » January 2014 » USA Noir named an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times!

USA Noir named an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times!

USANOIR_CurrentThe New York Times has named USA Noir (edited by Johnny Temple) an Editors’ Choice pick and given the anthology a stellar review (below)!

All the heavy hitters, from Michael Connelly in Los Angeles to Joyce Carol Oates in suburban New Jersey, came out for USA NOIR . . . an important anthology of stories shrewdly culled by Johnny Temple, Akashic’s editor in chief, from dozens of volumes of regional crime fiction published since 2004 under the “Noir” banner. Although there’s hardly a dud in the pack, some do elbow their way to the front.

“Amapola” is a frighteningly funny cautionary tale, first told by Luis Alberto Urrea in “Phoenix Noir,” about a high school kid who adopts the gangsta-goth persona of his best friend, the spoiled son of a rich Mexican businessman from Nogales, and comes to grief when he falls in tempestuous love with his friend’s virginal sister.

Maggie Estep found her inspiration for “Alice Fantastic” at Aqueduct Racetrack, the playground of “down-on-their-luck trainers slumping in the benches, degenerates, droolcases and drunks swapping tips,” along with a few professional gamblers like the hard-bitten title character, who pays the price when she drops her guard and lets someone get a little too close.

And then there’s “Animal Rescue,” a work of art by Dennis Lehane. This incisive character study trails after a big lug named Bob, who tends bar in the dodgy Boston neighborhood of Dorchester and discovers the meaning — and the measure — of love when he finds a pit bull puppy beaten and left for dead in a garbage can.

As applied to individual stories, “noir” can be reduced to “tough” or “gritty” or just “not cozy.” But the fierce regional pride that runs through this collection does capture the characters’ fatalistic sense of alienation, even in their own hometowns.

When Bob was a kid, “your parish was your country” and “everything you needed and needed to know was contained within it.” These days, the natives are either feeling trapped or being displaced by strangers. Eloquent variations on this theme are told by forceful writers like George Pelecanos in Washington, D.C., Laura Lippman in Baltimore, Lawrence Block in Hell’s Kitchen and William Kent Krueger on the west side of St. Paul, where an amiable young drifter can’t even hang on to the home he has made on the bank of the river.

You can read the full review at the New York Times review online, or see it in print on Sunday, January 5th, 2014.

Posted: Jan 3, 2014

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