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News & Features » November 2013 » Maggie Estep: On the USA Noir Table of Contents

Maggie Estep: On the USA Noir Table of Contents

To celebrate the November publication of USA Noir, we asked contributor Maggie Estep to write about her experience with this Best of the Akashic Noir Series anthology. Maggie’s story, “Alice Fantastic,” was originally published in Queens Noir and later expanded into a novel, Alice Fantastic“Alice Fantastic” is also included in USA Noir. Maggie just forgot.

Make sure you don’t forget to take advantage of our various Noir sales, including the complete Noir Series (60 books!) for $500!

USANOIR_CurrentOn the USA Noir Table of Contents
by Maggie Estep

Over the last bunch of years, I’ve contributed to several tomes in the Akashic Noir Series. I love the series and like working with the folks at Akashic (especially when they do really great things like post photos of Johanna Ingalls’s Irish wolfhound, Beckett, perambulating the office).

A few weeks ago, I was partaking of my semi-reluctantly-entered-into Twitter habit when I noticed a post of an interview with publisher Johnny Temple about USA Noir. I followed the link, perused the list of contributors, and thought: Damn, wish I was in THAT anthology.

Three days after this, two copies of USA Noir magically appeared in my mailbox. I thought: Wow, nice of Akashic to send these to me. I wonder why?

I looked through the table of contents discovered I do have a story in USA Noir. I had forgotten. Of course, Akashic had asked permission, even had me sign a contract, but, still, I had completely forgotten.

The next revelation, after further reading of the table of contents, was: I AM IN A BOOK WITH GEORGE PELECANOS.

I actually squealed.

Further perusal of the table of contents revealed that, yes, I am in a book with George Pelecanos—and a bunch of other heavy hitters, too.

I hope I won’t hurt anyone’s feelings when I say that none of my fellow contributors thrill me quite as much as Pelecanos, who is in my top three list of favorite living writers, who writes economically and beautifully and with the kind of heart that is absent from so many books I try reading then ultimately hurl across the room, annoyed and feeling a little sullied.

George Pelecanos never disappoints and I love him for it. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I have never met George Pelecanos. Also, I might vomit if I did. I admire him that much.  I’ve met many well-known people and they are just people. But George Pelecanos is not a person. He is George Pelecanos.

Yes. I realize there are thirty-six other writers in there. thirty-seven if you count me, and you should—mine is a good story.

I’d already read a few of the stories in the book, namely Tim McLoughlin’s excellent “When All This Was Bay Ridge,” as well as Reed Farrel Coleman, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Rozan’s stories. I haven’t yet looked at Lawrence Block’s offering, but I’ve read enough of his books to fill several bathtubs (somehow it seems his books should be stacked in bathtubs, but I realize I have a strange sensibility, which is why someone like Lawrence Block sells many bathtubs full of books while I sell perhaps one bathtub full of books.)

Dennis Lehane gets a particularly vigorous nod for his “Animal Rescue,” the collection’s opener, a perfect story made all the better because someone saves a pit bull and— well, I’d really like to issue a spoiler here, but suffice to say, “Animal Rescue” is thematically very close to “The Killing Type,” a piece of flash fiction I wrote for Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series. Plus, the writing is perfect. Really, truly perfect. I ended up underlining three or four lines per page to commit to memory, rearrange, and steal in the future.

I haven’t yet read Jonathan Safran Foer’s story, but we all know he is smart and funny as hell, and his book Eating Animals is one I love to anonymously send to people who’ve been combative with me when I’ve tried to explain why I’m vegan.

Also, part of the beauty of USA Noir lies in contributions from writers some of us might not have heard of. Not that these folks are toiling in total obscurity, just that none of us (other than Johnny Temple) has heard of everyone.

Asali Solomon’s “Secret Pool” is smart and bittersweet and has a number of theft-worthy lines. Susan Straight’s “The Golden Gopher” (not really that obscure; the story won an Edgar Award for Best Short Story, but, still, new to me) introduces the world to a previously unknown species: Walkin’ fools—people who actually WALK in Los Angeles (I am one of them; thought I was alone).

So, the moral of this story is, I have a piece in a truly magnificent anthology (WITH GEORGE PELECANOS) and everyone should buy enough copies of USA Noir to fill at least one bathtub.


Maggie Estep MAGGIE ESTEP has published multiple books, including Alice Fantastic and Hex (a New York Times Notable Book of 2003). Her work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies such as Brooklyn Noir, Queens Noir, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Best American Erotica, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. She has performed her work in a wide variety of venues ranging from Lincoln Center to Lollapalooza, Charlie Rose, and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. She lives in Woodstock, New York.

Posted: Nov 21, 2013

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