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News & Features » November 2013 » “Dallas: The Ultimate Noir Town” by Will Evans

“Dallas: The Ultimate Noir Town” by Will Evans

To celebrate the release of Dallas Noir, we’ve invited Will Evans, Dallas resident and founder of Deep Vellum Publishing, to share his thoughts on why Dallas is “the ultimate noir town.”

Will_VDHDallas: The Ultimate Noir Town
by Will Evans

I’m new here. Many people in Dallas are. Dallas is a city where you move from somewhere else, whether from North Carolina, like me, or from some tiny town off of a godforsaken stretch of state highway in the Southwest. Dallas is a crossroads city, on the way to everywhere—or nowhere—filled with strangers and drifters and loners, many of whom don’t fit the mold of a typical Dallas resident. People like me. Like I said, I’m not from here. But here I am.

“The Big D” looms larger than its prominent skyscrapers in the imagination of people from across the country, and it has a stereotype as a materialistic city: all glitz and glamour, the civic embodiment of Jerry Jones’s Cowboys. That’s pretty much all I knew about Dallas before moving here. I was legitimately worried that Dallas might lack the character, the weird, seedy underbelly of a place, the noir element, if you will, that makes a city so damn interesting to me. I have a personal creed that I never want to live in a city that I don’t love. So when I moved here, I started exploring Dallas’s history to figure out why, and how, Dallas exists, and it didn’t take me a long to find what I was hoping would be here: the creative and the weird that counterbalances the fanciness.

Dallas is a city where dreams and fortunes are made and lost. It’s a classic boomtown; it’s gone through booms from railroads, cotton, insurance, oil, natural gas, air cargo, and transportation, all many times over, and I moved here because Dallas is booming again. But you know when a boomtown is booming, not everybody is striking it rich. You can sense a constant friction between the upwardly and downwardly mobile here. It reminds me of Los Angeles, the way some of the best neighborhoods in the city are right next to some of the poorest and most dangerous. Outside the ostentatious displays of wealth (and that stereotype is as true as it was in the big-hair J.R. Ewing days of the 80s), there are some people doing some interesting things in the realms of business as well as art (it’s a great place to start a new publishing house)—but at the same time, some people aren’t getting lucky. So even though Dallas is one of the richest places in America, it’s still a place that terrifies my in-laws; they watch the news and know that crime happens in Dallas. Of course, if you watch the local news anywhere, you get too scared to leave the house.

But Dallas maintains the rough edges even as it polishes its center to a radiant glow meant to catch the world’s attention and make them all think Dallas is wonderful and special. And it is, but not just because it’s a glowing gem of a place, but because it’s still the city where Robert Johnson came to record his last record after making his deal with the devil at the crossroads; it’s still the city where Bonnie and Clyde grew up, became outlaw legends, and where they’re still buried, their bullet-ridden bodies interred in cemeteries miles apart to try to keep their devoted fans away from them; and we can never forget, especially now in the month of the 50th anniversary, the Kennedy assassination, the blood that is still on Dallas’s hands, the event that more than any other still defines this city. It changed Dallas forever, and since moving here I’ve heard the raging debates everywhere about what the assassination means to Dallas today: is this still the “City of Hate” that killed Kennedy, or has it grown past that into a modern global metropolis the city so desperately wants to be seen as? The answer to both questions is yes and no.

Dallas is an exciting place to be, with an overabundance of culture and history that defies any one stereotype. It’s a city on the make, and rather than letting its past define it, the city rather embraces each and every stereotype you could ever think of, never afraid to reinvent itself as it grows. And that’s what I’ve come to love about Dallas. Its dualities. Its complexity.

A true noir city is defined by duality: the light and the dark; the good and the bad; the rich and the poor; booms and busts; detective and criminal. This is why Dallas is the ultimate noir town. Because any time you look at a city as wildly successful as Dallas, a quintessential boomtown in the midst of another boom period, you are looking at a city with problems aplenty just under the surface, with a period of bust always threatening to explode again. You put these elements into a city and what do you get?  I guess you could call it noir.


WILL EVANS founded Deep Vellum Publishing in spring 2013. He graduated from Emory University in 2005 with degrees in Russian and History, then worked in the music business in Los Angeles and Austin before receiving a Master’s degree in Russian Culture from Duke University in 2012. His love of world literature and experience in Russian translation led him to start Deep Vellum to provide a much-needed outlet for the world’s great untranslated literature in English. A native of Wilmington, NC, he lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and cat. Find Deep Vellum on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted: Nov 14, 2013

Category: Akashic Insider