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Chicago Noir: The Classics

Edited by:

Nelson Algren, Richard Wright, and Patricia Highsmith are just three of the iconic authors included in this outstanding volume.

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What people are saying…

“In this superior entry in Akashic’s noir series, Meno offers nearly a century of Chicago crime fiction. . . . Familiar bylines abound: Max Allan Collins, Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, Sherwood Anderson, Fredric Brown, Patricia Highsmith (with an excerpt from her novel The Price of Salt), Stewart M. Kaminsky, Sara Paretsky. Others may be less familiar to mystery specialists, but all turn in impressive performances.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred review

“Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, and Sandra Cisneros are not crime-fiction writers, and yet their Chicago certainly embodies the individual-crushing ethos endemic to noir. Meno also includes stories from writers who could easily have been overlooked (Percy Spurlark Parker, Hugh Holton) to ensure that diverse voices, and neighborhoods, are represented. Add in smart and essential choices from Fredric Brown, Sara Paretsky, and Stuart Kaminsky, and you have not an anthology not for crime-fiction purists, perhaps, but a thought-provoking document all the same.”

“The fifteen short stories comprising Chicago Noir: The Classics, which are knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Joe Meno, are true gems of the noir literary tradition. . . . Chicago Noir: The Classics is a consistently entertaining and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”
Midwest Book Review

“I’ve always enjoyed reading noir. Dark, ironic mysteries are a good read to me. Since this collection includes old classics as well as some new stories, I knew it would be good. . . . I wasn’t disappointed.”
Journey of a Bookseller

Chicago Noir The Classics does everything anthologies and noir are supposed to, but this title achieves an unheralded goal that deserves notice. . . . This is wonderful diversity, coming both unexpected and unhearalded. Anthologies are supposed to convey a sense of having covered the territory, Joe Meno has. Ethnically diverse city, ethnically diverse plots. Better, Chicago Noir The Classics showcases diversity as normal, everyday. This adds inescapable satisfaction to a sense of the editor’s having covered the territory.”
La Bloga

“A worthy addition to the Akashic Books noir series.”
Book Chase


Although Los Angeles may be considered the most quintessentially “noir” American city, this volume reveals that pound-for-pound, Chicago has historically been able to stand up to any other metropolis in the noir arena.

Classic reprints from: Harry Stephen Keeler, Sherwood Anderson, Max Allan Collins, Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, Fredric Brown, Patricia Highsmith, Barry Gifford, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Sara Paretsky, Percy Spurlark Parker, Sandra Cisneros, Hugh Holton, and Stuart Dybek.

From the introduction by Joe Meno:

“More corrupt than New York, less glamorous than LA, Chicago has more murders per capita than any other city its size. With its sleek skyscrapers bisecting the fading sky like an unspoken threat, Chicago is the closest metropolis to the mythical city of shadows as first described in the work of Chandler, Hammett, and Cain. Only in Chicago do instituted color lines offer generation after generation of poverty and violence, only in Chicago do the majority of governors do prison time, only in Chicago do the dead actually vote twice.

“Chicago—more than the metropolis that gave the world Al Capone, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, the death of John Dillinger, the crimes of Leopold and Loeb, the horrors of John Wayne Gacy, the unprecedented institutional corruption of so many recent public officials, more than the birthplace of Raymond Chandler—is a city of darkness. This darkness is not an act of over-imagination. It’s the unadulterated truth. It’s a pointed though necessary reminder of the grave tragedies of the past and the failed possibilities of the present. Fifty years in the future, I hope these stories are read only as fiction, as somewhat distant fantasy. Here’s hoping for some light.”

Read features at the Chicago Tribune on Joe Meno and Chicago Noir: The Classics.

Check out a music playlist compiled by Joe Meno and inspired by Chicago Noir: The Classics at Largehearted Boy.

Table of Contents


Part I: The Jazz Age
“30 Seconds of Darkness” by Harry Stephen Keeler (Rogers Park, 1916)
“Brothers” by Sherwood Anderson (Douglas, 1921)
“Kaddish for the Kid” by Max Allan Collins (West Town, 1998)
“The Man Who Went to Chicago (excerpt)” by Richard Wright (Illinois Medical District, 1945)

Part II: Noir & Ne0-Noir
“He Swung and He Missed” by Nelson Algren (Lakeview, 1942)
“I’ll Cut Your Throat Again, Kathleen” by Fredric Brown (Magnificent Mile, 1948)
“The Price of Salt (excerpt)” by Patricia Highsmith (Gold Coast, 1952)
“The Starving Dogs of Little Croatia” by Barry Gifford (Wicker Park, 2009)
“Blue Note” by Stuart M. Kaminsky (Woodlawn, 1997)
“The Whole World Is Watching” by Libby Fischer Hellmann (Grant Park, 2007)

Part III: Modern Crime
“Skin Deep” by Sara Paretsky (Michigan Avenue, 1987)
“Death and the Point Spread” by Percy Spurlark Parker (Lawndale, 1995)
“One Holy Night” by Sandra Cisneros (Pilsen, 1988)
“The Thirtieth Amendment” by Hugh Holton (Bridgeport, 1995)
“We Didn’t” by Stuart Dybek (Oak Street Beach, 1993)

Book Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Published: 9/1/15
  • IBSN: 9781617752940
  • e-IBSN: 9781617754180
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617753770


JOE MENO is a fiction writer and journalist who lives in Chicago. Winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a finalist for the Story Prize, Meno is the best-selling author of several novels and short story collections including Marvel and a Wonder, The Great Perhaps, The Boy Detective Fails, and Hairstyles of the Damned. He is a professor in the English and Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Book of Extraordinary Tragedies is his latest work.

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