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Montana Noir

Edited by: and

Grady and Graff, both Montana natives, masterfully curate this collection of hard-edged Western tales.

$18.95 $14.21

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What people are saying…

Eric Heidle’s “Ace in the Hole” has been nominated for a 2018 Edgar Award for Best Short Story!

“These well-told tales offer an engrossing snapshot of Montana’s fabled literary landscape. Every one, a worthy read.”
Lively Times

“What could be a more unlikely breeding ground for noir fiction than Montana, whose wide-open landscapes seem the polar opposite of the mean streets of Los Angeles? Yet certain noir standbys prove both malleable and fertile in these 14 new stories . . . If Montana has a dark side, is anywhere safe from noir?”
Kirkus Reviews

“Terrific . . . Montana Noir is one of the high points in Akashic’s long-running and justly celebrated Noir series…Editors Grady and Graff’s selections…are all sharply attuned to their settings and to the ways those varying landscapes reflect the darkness within the people who walk the streets or drive the country roads.”

“Thirteen original stories plus a reprint by Thomas McGuane cover the Big Sky State in this thoroughly entertaining Akashic anthology, from desperate writing students in Missoula to a van of itinerant strippers working the Hi-Line paralleling the Canadian border.”
Publishers Weekly

“14 stories set in Big Sky Country. Much like a travel map that divides Montana into regions, this volume is partitioned into four sections that reflect the geography of the state: Copper Power, The Hi-Line, Custer Country, and Rivers Run . . . Montana, and others live in the state; all the authors have strong emotional ties to the area’s particular lifestyle. The editors tout this book as the first-ever anthology of Montana-set noir short stories. Fans of the genre and regional fiction will be intrigued.”
Library Journal XPress Reviews

“Montana may not have the back alleys so common to noir but it has western justice which can be quick, brutal and final and that is as satisfying as anything found in the urban streets that typically attract the dark beauty of the noir genre.”
New York Journal of Books

“From Polson to Glendive, Shelby to downtown Billings, the book ties together many of the state’s best writers with stories from the seedier side of life.”
Great Falls Tribune

“There’s no shortage of misbehavior in this book. But there’s also no shortage of excellent writing by some of Montana’s finest authors. The book includes work by Thomas McGuane, Jamie Ford, Walter Kirn, Debra Magpie Earling and eight others. They’re all Montanans, every one, and their subjects are as varied and unique as the state itself.”
Montana Quarterly, Editor’s Pick

“Grady and Graff, both Montana natives, masterfully curate this collection of hard-edged Western tales.”
Montana Magazine

“Grit is the best description of the collection of short stories compiled in Montana Noir because every single story has a thick skin of brutality, skeeviness, violence and just a dash of horror that makes the collection exceptionally good . . . An impressive set of works from a variety of writers that deserves to be read by many, especially those who want to lose themselves in the darkness of a Montana winter night.”

“If Montana Noir—the new short fiction anthology from Akashic Books released Sept. 5—seeks to teach us anything, perhaps it’s that the Big Sky has always been home to its share of dirty deeds.”
Missoula Independent

“Even though Montana’s beauty makes the idea of dark alleys and neon lights seem incongruous, noir also represents struggle, and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons . . . There can never be a happy ending in noir but there can be the possibility of redemption. It’s the little guy against big forces and as Montanans, we can all appreciate that fight.”
Billings Gazette

“The stories represent Montana in all its variety: the people; the land; the weather and its physical and psychological effects; social, cultural, and political issues; sexism and racism; Native American vs. White conflicts; urban vs. rural concerns; and more . . . If the intent of the Akashic Noir series is to capture the uniquely dark spirit of a place, then Montana Noir certainly succeeds.”
—Popular Culture Association/Mystery & Detective Fiction

Montana Noir reveals that even Big Sky Country works just fine as a landscape for downbeats and deadbeats, cynics and gamblers, posers and schemers. This is a diverse collection with many hits . . . Noir isn’t confined to a place. It’s a state of being. It follows humanity wherever humanity wanders. And Montana Noir gives the genre more definition.”
Don’t Need a Diagram (Mark Stevens Blog)

“Who would have imagined that murder and mayhem could be so much fun? In Montana Noir a new collection of hardboiled short stories, 14 writers jump with evident joy into tales teeming with dead bodies, guns, strippers, booze, meth, weed and problematic stores of cash. And they take us to unexpected places, from the rough parts of Great Falls to a depressing corner of Billings Heights, from the loneliest stretches of the Hi-Line’s Highway 2 to the vomit-stained sidewalk in front of the Party Palace in Butte.”
Last Best News

“If you enjoy noir at all, like short stories clustered around a central theme, or even if you just appreciate excellent storytelling, you can’t go wrong with Montana Noir.”
Tails from the Dog-Side


Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct location within the geographic area of the book. Grady and Graff, both Montana natives, masterfully curate this collection of hard-edged Western tales.

Brand-new stories by: David Abrams, Caroline Patterson, Eric Heidle, Thomas McGuane, Janet Skeslien Charles, Sidner Larson, Yvonne Seng, James Grady, Jamie Ford, Carrie La Seur, Walter Kirn, Gwen Florio, Debra Magpie Earling, and Keir Graff.

From the introduction by James Grady and Keir Graff:

This anthology is a road trip through the dreams and disasters of the true Montana, stories written by authors with Montana in their blood, tales that circle you around the state through its cities and small towns. These are twenty-first century authors writing timeless sagas of choice, crime, and consequences…You’ll meet students and strippers, cops and cons, druggies and dreamers, cold-eyed killers and caught-in-their-gunsights screwed-up souls.

But mostly, through all our fiction here, you’ll meet quiet heroes and see the noir side of life that makes our Montana as real as it is mythic. No doubt the state’s beauty will still make the very idea of Montana Noir seem incongruous to some. Noir is black-and-white. Streets and alleys. Flashing neon lighting a rain-streaked window. But while noir was definitely an urban invention, it knows no boundaries. Noir is struggle. It’s doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. It’s being trapped. It’s hubris. It’s being defeated yet going on. Sometimes it’s being defeated and not going on.

That’s life everywhere. This is our Montana.

Read a feature on contributor David Abrams from the Montana Standard.

Read an interview with James Grady and select contributors from The Shelby Promoter.

Listen to an interview with Keir Graff at NewCity.

Listen to playlists created by Keir Graff and James Grady that accompany Montana Noir at Largehearted Boy.

See Montana Noir as “Image of the Day” at Shelf Awareness.

Read an exclusive sampler of stories from Montana Noir at Parade Magazine.

Listen to an interview with coeditors James Grady and Keir Graff on Montana Public Radio’s The Write Question, and on Main Street’s News Chat with Dave Thompson on Prairie Public Radio.

Table of Contents


Part I: Copper Power
“Red, White, and Butte” by David Abrams (Butte)
“Constellations” by Caroline Patterson (Helena)
“Ace in the Hole” by Eric Heidle (Great Falls)

Part II: The Hi-Line
“Fireweed” by Janet Skeslien Charles (Farm Country)
“Dark Monument” by Sidner Larson (Havre)
“All the Damn Stars in the Sky” by Yvonne Seng (Glasgow)
“The Road You Take” by James Grady (Shelby)

Part III: Custer Country
“The Dive” by Jamie Ford (Glendive)
“Bad Blood” by Carrie La Seur (Downtown Billings)
“Oasis” by Walter Kirn (Billings Heights)
“Motherlode” by Thomas McGuane (Jordan)

Part IV: Rivers Run
“Trailer Trash” by Gwen Florio (Missoula)
“Custer’s Last Stand” by Debra Magpie Earling (Polson)
“Red Skies of Montana” by Keir Graff (Lolo)

Book Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Published: 9/5/17
  • IBSN: 9781617755798
  • e-IBSN: 9781617756054


JAMES GRADY was born and raised in Shelby, Montana. His first novel, Six Days of the Condor, became an iconic movie starring Robert Redford. He is the coeditor of Montana Noir.

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KEIR GRAFF was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. He is the author of four novels for adults (most recently The Price of Liberty) and two novels for middle-graders. Graff now lives in Chicago, where he is the executive editor of Booklist. He is the coeditor of Montana Noir.

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