Temple, general editor of Akashic’s series of noir collections (Brooklyn Noir, 2004, etc.), skims the cream from the first 59 volumes.
It’s hard to imagine how the present anthology could be topped for sheer marquee appeal. Seasoned pros contribute stories as proficient as they are characteristic. Lawrence Block tangles quick-thinking lawyer Martin Ehrengraf in a tricky domestic triangle. Michael Connelly follows a forensic reconstructionist to a suspicious car accident on Mulholland Drive. Pete Hamill brings a successful author back to his hometown for a book signing. Lee Child’s reporter abruptly rings down the curtain on the killing of a 14-year-old girl. The field is expanded by Tim Broderick’s comic-book tale of Wall Street malfeasance and dispatches from Laura Lippman’s Baltimore, Dennis Lehane’s Boston, Julie Smith’s New Orleans, James W. Hall’s Miami, George Pelecanos’s D.C., and even Jonathan Safran Foer’s suburban New Jersey. Yet, the results are more professional than inspired. Like a series of postcards, the stories leave you with good memories of past encounters rather than creating bold new experiences. Perhaps the single most impressive feature of the collection is its range of voices, from Joyce Carol Oates’ faux innocent young family to Megan Abbott’s impressionable high school kids to the chorus of peremptory voices S.J. Rozan plants in a haunted thief’s head. Eat your heart out, Walt Whitman: These are the folks who hear America singing, and moaning and screaming.
A helpful U.S. map locating the places where all the 37 reprints are set indicates that, with a few notable exceptions—New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, the Twin Cities, Kansas City, Phoenix, Las Vegas and, of course, Texas—noir seems to flourish overwhelmingly in coastal blue states. Sociologists and pollsters take note.