Dennis Lehane returns to coedit the sequel to the best-selling evergreen anthology Boston Noir.
"In a bloody tribute to this great city, Lehane and company have resurrected several out-of-print classics and pushed the meaning of noir into peculiar places
For those unfamiliar with Greater Boston and its literary heritage, Boston Noir 2: the Classics is a great place to start."
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
"Akashic Books is this edgy press that you may or may not have heard of...Their noir series is sure to please fans of noir, and I recommend picking up one of the many titles, perhaps beginning with Boston Noir 2: The Classics...with contributors like David Foster Wallace, Joyce Carol Oates and Andre Dubus, how can you go wrong with Boston Noir 2: The Classics?"
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Boston Noir 2The Classics
Akashic BooksCopyright © 2012 Akashic Books
All right reserved.
IntroductionThey Look Like You and Me
There's a mysterious phenomenon particular to Boston involving the network of underground and aboveground trains that form the spiderweb of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, known colloquially as the T. The city's subway employs a directional concept known as Inbound and Outbound, which confounds and baffles tourists and transient college students alike, since it's not readily evident what exactly Inbound and Outbound are in relation to. Any number of theories persist: toward the Atlantic Ocean means Inbound, away means Outbound; toward the gold- capped State House in Beacon Hill designates Inbound, away from it is Outbound, and on and on. All guesses are reduced to just that when the Inbound train you're riding on suddenly and inexplicably transforms into an Outbound train by passing through some magical plane of existence.
What is noir and what is not inhabits a similarly gray area. Its definition is continually expanding from the previous generation's agreed-upon notion that noir involves men in fedoras smoking cigarettes on street corners. Noir alludes to crime, sure, but it also evokes bleak elements, danger, tragedy, sleaze, all of which is best represented by its root French definition: black. We used this idea as our guide for this sequel to the best-selling Boston Noir anthology, which was originally published in 2009. Whereas Boston Noir comprised brand-new pieces commissioned for the anthology, our charge here was to scour the body of Boston literature for previously published short stories and novel excerpts that best illuminate the dark corners of the Hub.
While the tales told within take place in the Boston metro area and its exburbs, the first story we agreed should be included unfolds north of the city, Andre Dubus's "Townies." One of the modern short story masters, Dubus's work is filled with grim circumstances and ersatz characters. His fiction could fill an entire volume of noir, and the unforgettable protagonist of "Townies" and his irrevocable act are as haunting as any ghost story.
Our search deep into the archives of Boston fiction turned up a priceless find: Robert B. Parker's short story "Surrogate," which features an early appearance of Spenser, his famous detective. It's rumored that "Surrogate" was commissioned by Playboy but never published there, appearing only in a limited-edition volume, then later in an anthology published in England. You're among the first to read it in a very long time.
We uncovered other gems as well: "The Marriage Privilege" by Chuck Hogan, which was previously published in the Boston College alumni magazine; and Linda Barnes's short story "Lucky Penny," which won a 1985 Anthony Award and also marked the first appearance of the towering cop-turned–private detective Carlotta Carlyle, who would star in ten of Barnes's hard-boiled detective novels; and Joyce Carol Oates writing occult fiction. You read that right.
The vast treasure trove of George V. Higgins's work made for long stretches of interesting and entertaining reading and when the arguing was over, "The Balance of the Day" became our favorite, second only to our desire to reprint Higgins's entire novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
Barbara Neely's four novels featuring Blanche White, a sharp-tongued, middle-aged black cleaning woman, are sadly out of print. The excerpt from Blanche Cleans Up anthologized here features an amateur private detective in the unique position to investigate the death of a young black man from the inside of the Boston Brahmin politician's house she's currently cleaning.
Kenneth Abel's novel Bait, also unfairly out of print, shows us a gritty Boston populated by fascinating characters: brilliant (and not so brilliant) mob bosses and thugs, recovering alcoholic cops and the women who love them, and government officials trying desperately to look like they know what they're doing.
The late David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest is set partly in Enfield, a fictional Brighton. (Wallace lived for a time in Boston.) The novel is full of comedy, but is also filled with blackness, and the excerpt we've chosen is singular in its depravity.
Knowing that Hannah Tinti grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, the witch-burning capital of the country, won't prepare you for the grand noir soap opera she unfurls in her story "Home Sweet Home."
In the gradations of noir, the stories by Jason Brown, George Harrar, and David Ryan are perhaps on the subtle end, but they fall in the final act of this volume because they are deeply unsettling. That's fair warning.
For those of us lucky enough to call Boston home, the commonwealth is an endless source of fascinating landscapes: the autumnal light spreading across the Charles River; the ice floes in the wintry Boston Harbor; a spring air tantalizing leaves in Harvard Yard; the salty taste of summer as sunbathers peer into the horizon, shielding their eyes from the glare, squinting into the middle distance. Beyond the postcard fabric, though, lies a community populated by broken families, criminal minds, voyeurs, and outsiders. They look like you and me. These are their stories.
Jaime Clarke, Mary Cotton & Dennis Lehane Boston, MA September 2012
Excerpted from Boston Noir 2 Copyright © 2012 by Akashic Books. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dennis Lehane: Dennis Lehane is the author of the Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro mystery series (A Drink Before the War; Darkness, Take My Hand; Sacred; Gone Baby Gone; Prayers for Rain, and Moonlight Mile), as well as Coronado (five stories and a play) and the award-winning novels Mystic River, Shutter Island, and The Given Day. Mystic River, Shutter Island, and Gone Baby Gone have been made into award-winning films. In 2009, he edited the best-selling anthology Boston Noir for Akashic Books.
Mary Cotton: Mary Cotton is the pseudonymous author of nine novels for young adults, six of them New York Times bestsellers. She is also a fiction editor for the literary magazine, Post Road, and is coeditor of No Near Exit: Writers Select Their Favorite Work from Post Road. She is coowner of Newtonville Books, an independent bookstore in Boston.
Jaime Clarke: Jaime Clarke is the author of the novel We're So Famous, editor of Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes, Conversations with Jonathan Lethem, and co-editor of No Near Exit: Writers Select Their Favorite Work from Post Road. He is a founding editor of Post Road and has taught creative writing at UMASS-Boston and Emerson College. He is coowner of Newtonville Books, an independent bookstore in Boston.
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Date of Birth:
- August 4, 1965
- Place of Birth:
- Dorchester, Massachusetts
- B.A., Eckerd College, 1988; M.F.A., Florida International University, 1993
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