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Kansas City Noir

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Overview


"Light Bulb" by Nancy Pickard was selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2013, edited by Otto Penzler and Lisa Scottoline

"Kansas City, famous for its jazz, its barbecue, and its shady history, provides the venue for this solid addition to Akashic's acclaimed noir anthology series."
--Publishers Weekly

"Hard-used heroes and heroines seem to live a lifetime in the stories...Each one seems almost novelistic in scope. Half novels-in-waiting, half journalistic ...

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Kansas City Noir

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Overview


"Light Bulb" by Nancy Pickard was selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2013, edited by Otto Penzler and Lisa Scottoline

"Kansas City, famous for its jazz, its barbecue, and its shady history, provides the venue for this solid addition to Akashic's acclaimed noir anthology series."
--Publishers Weekly

"Hard-used heroes and heroines seem to live a lifetime in the stories...Each one seems almost novelistic in scope. Half novels-in-waiting, half journalistic anecdotes that are equally likely to appeal to Kansas City boosters and strangers."
--Kirkus Reviews

“Travel has many unexpected benefits, so even if you’ve never had a reason to visit the city itself, you’ll find Kansas City Noir surprisingly well worth the price of the ticket.”
--Bookgasm

"Picture steam rising from a sewer grate on a rain-slicked street. The sound of footsteps comes closer and closer behind you as you walk down a dark, downtown Kansas City alley. If this scenario entices you, then you just might enjoy Kansas City Noir."
--Kansas City Public Television

"What we heard was REALLY GOOD. So good in fact that we picked up a copy. Now we're... getting ready to read it in one sitting."
--Tony's Kansas City

Brand-new stories from: J. Malcolm Garcia, Grace Suh, Daniel Woodrell, Kevin Prufer, Matthew Eck, Philip Stephens, Catherine Browder, John Lutz, Nancy Pickard, Linda Rodriguez, Andrés Rodríguez, Mitch Brian, Nadia Pflaum, and Phong Nguyen.

Steve Paul has been a writer and editor at the The Kansas City Star since 1975. Currently the arts editor, he writes about music, books, architecture, food, and, occasionally, murder. He's the author of Architecture A to Z: An Elemental, Alphabetical Guide to Kansas City's Built Environment. A former bookseller and a native of Boston, he has served as a board member and officer of the National Book Critics Circle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kansas City, famous for its jazz, its barbecue, and its shady history, provides the venue for this solid addition to Akashic’s acclaimed noir anthology series. Strong entries from some well-known names include John Lutz’s “Thelma and Laverne,” a play on the Thelma and Louise saga that offers both chills and laughs; Nancy Pickard’s “Lightbulb,” in which a guilt-stricken elderly woman, who failed as a girl to make more of an effort to report a child molester back in the ’50s, finally takes action years later; and Daniel Woodrell’s “Come Murder Me Next, Babe,” which captures a marriage with one line: “She was eighteen, said she was twenty, and had every appetite, none of which he could satisfy.” Also notable are Kevin Prufer’s “Cat in a Box,” about a cop nearing the end of the line who tries to crack a serial murder case any way he can, and Mitch Brian’s “Last Night at the Rialto,” in which bittersweet memories haunt the elderly projectionist of an old movie theater that the owner has decided to close down. (Oct.)
Library Journal
For six and a half months in 1917, Ernest Hemingway was a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star. He learned a lot there, both about the underbelly of life and about keeping it laconic. Later, in such stories as "The Killers," he showed his mastery of both. The very best stories in this variable collection do too. In Kevin Prufer's "Cat in a Box" a cop drives compulsively around and around the Country Club Plaza, willing and able to do anything to retire. To have to describe Sharon, the black hole at the heart of Daniel Woodrell's terrific "Come Murder Me Next, Babe," as a "femme fatale" is to demonstrate the poverty of the language. The poor schmuck she's married to dies of boredom—hers, not his—and faster than love, she becomes the obsession of an acolyte. John Lutz's "Thelma and Laverne" has Esther and Jenine reinventing themselves on a road trip to KC where everything is going well until Thelma meets Mr. Right. VERDICT Edited by a longtime Kansas City Star staffer and Hemingway aficionado, this collection would make Papa proud.—Bob Lunn, formerly with Kansas City P.L., MO
Kirkus Reviews
The Akashic noir steamroller, now 56 titles strong, pulls up to Kansas City. What about Kansas City says noir? Half of these 14 new stories leave this question a mystery because they reveal so little about the city. Oddly, it's the shorter stories that are more steeped in local atmosphere. Linda Rodriguez's retired hero crosses a line to protect his South Troost neighborhood from gangs and lives to regret it. Nancy Pickard shows traumatic childhood memories of the Paseo casting a long shadow over a woman in faraway Detroit. Mitch Brian provides a slight but evocative account of the last night before a movie theater goes dark. Daniel Woodrell traces the murderous arc of a female who tears up the city and feasts on the resulting headlines. Phong Nguyen imagines an episode built around a real-life 19th-century political fixer, and Andrés Rodríguez devises a more mysterious end for the famous owner of Milton's Tap Room. In the most routine of the stories, Nadia Pflaum explains why you can't get good Kansas City barbecue anymore. The other entries aren't any less successful, just more indeterminate in their time and place. Matthew Eck's hero and heroine, children of serial killers, meet at a convention in a town that just happens to be Kansas City. John Lutz spins a tart variation on Thelma and Louise that could have followed any mean streets. Same thing with Kevin Prufer's tale of a sick cop on the trail of an even sicker killer, or Catherine Browder's cop accidentally shot during a quarrel with her lesbian live-in. Hard-used heroes and heroines seem to live a lifetime in the stories of J. Malcolm Garcia, Grace Suh and Philip Stephens. What these tales lack in geographic specificity they make up in lived experience; each one seems almost novelistic in scope. Half novels-in-waiting, half journalistic anecdotes that are equally likely to appeal to Kansas City boosters and strangers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617751288
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Series: Akashic Noir Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,375,864
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Steve Paul: Steve Paul has been a writer and editor at The Kansas City Star since 1975. Currently the arts editor, he writes about music, books, architecture, food and, occasionally, murder. He's the author of "Architecture A to Z: An Elemental, Alphabetical Guide to Kansas City's Built Environment" (2011) and co-editor of and contributor to "War & Ink," a collection of essays about Ernest Hemingway's early work, forthcoming from Kent State University Press. A former bookseller and a native of Boston, he has served as a board member and officer of the National Book Critics Circle.
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Read an Excerpt

Kansas City Noir


Akashic Books

Copyright © 2012 Akashic Books
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61775-128-8


Introduction

Papa's Blues

It was winter when a young newspaper reporter, recently back from the war in Europe, holed up in a rooming house in Michigan and turned his mind back to Kansas City.

He churned out a story of the kind he hoped one of the magazines would want. There was a murder. There was a mild-mannered newspaper man named Punk Alford. And there was an anguished, effete suspect who stroked a sword's edge as if it were ... well, you know.

Whether the budding author mailed that early effort to the Saturday Evening Post or any other magazine is unknown. But the story was never published, so Ernest Hemingway's future reputation was spared embarrassment and his apprenticeship in writing continued a few more years.

Hemingway, of course, later penned some of the great noir ur-tales of the 1920s and '30s, notably "The Killers" and To Have and Have Not. Lesser known among Hemingway's fictional record are murky-toned stories such as "A Pursuit Race," about a wigged-out heroin addict, and "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen," featuring a castration, both of which share two significant things with the unpublished Punk Alford story—namely, an origin and a setting in Kansas City.

Hemingway was eighteen years old in October 1917 when he arrived in Kansas City from a Chicago suburb to become a reporter at the Kansas City Star. For the next six and a half months, before he decamped to join the ambulance service in Italy, Hemingway discovered, while chasing ambulance surgeons and cops, what we still know: the streets of Kansas City are paved with dark tales aplenty.

Kansas City is a crossroads. East meets West and North meets South here. Since its settlement in the first half of the nineteenth century, Kansas City has represented a place of opportunity, optimism, and ornery behavior. It outfitted travelers and dreamers on the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails. It grew on cattle, grain, and lumber. It nurtured Jesse James, jazz, and gin-slinging scoundrels.

When I put out the call for contributions to this collection, I imagined we'd produce tributaries to a fictional stream that extends from nineteenth-century cowboy novels, through Hemingway's brand of gritty tales, and to the contemporary, unsparing visions of his successors. (For a taste of period Kansas City pulp at its peak, try finding—it's not easy—a copy of Tuck's Girl, a paperback novel published in 1952 by another onetime Kansas City Star reporter, Marcel Wallenstein.) I deliberately failed to define "noir" to prospective contributors. As previous anthologies in this series have shown quite effectively, the term represents a big tent. So here you will indeed find serial killers, moral turpitude, and police detectives at work. But you are just as likely to encounter quieter tales of inner turmoil, troubled reflection, and anxiety. The heart in stress can lead people to unpredictable and midnight-blue places.

In "Cat in a Box," Kevin Prufer's veteran detective/protagonist is on the trail of a killer while his own body threatens to change the course of his life and career.

In Nancy Pickard's "Lightbulb," a woman climbs deep into regret and guilt over an old memory. Pickard's story also negotiates the long shadow of Kansas City's racial divide, as does Linda Rodriguez's tale of a widower trying to maintain his life's order in a time of upheaval and collision.

Some stories within evoke real places and people, though just a reminder—this is a collection of fiction, not history. In "Come Murder Me Next, Babe," Daniel Woodrell, master of Missouri noir, imagines a femme fatale who may resonate with Kansas City readers of a certain age. And in setting "Yesterdays" in Milton's Tap Room, Andrés Rodríguez imagines an alternate history for the much beloved bootlegger, bar owner, and friend to jazz, who died in 1983. (Milton's, a noirish bar if there ever was one, I add with great affection, also shows up as a touchstone in Philip Stephens's troubling and trenchant Midtown tale, "You Shouldn't Be Here.")

By contrast, Nadia Pflaum invents a barbecue legacy that may or may not sound like a real Kansas City institution. (We repeat: any resemblance to real people ...) And Phong Nguyen steps into that nineteenth-century dime-novel current to imagine an episode from the earlier days of political machinist Jim Pendergast and his famous Climax Saloon.

Some stories take liberties with geography and specific places, which, of course, is the prerogative of fiction writers. Local readers can make their own gotcha lists, though I trust they will do so with a smile and nonetheless recognize their city's pulse reverberating in these pages.

First-time visitors to Kansas City usually note with surprise the greenery and the winding, hilly topography of our sprawling, two-state metropolitan area. Yet even the City Beautiful foliage and suburban finery can hide crime and lives of moral weakness, as Grace Suh displays in "Mission Hills Confidential."

Tourists and locals alike love their sports here, their slow-smoked ribs, their shopping, and the gab that goes on at neighborhood bars. Walking on the wild side is a long tradition here too, evidence of the full range of Kansas City's human condition. Our lineup of fine writers explores that condition in numerous and compelling ways. Through wintry chill. Through moonlit mystery. And often, befitting our literary and musical heritage, through singing the blues.

Steve Paul Kansas City June 2012

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Kansas City Noir 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

PART I: HEARTLAND....................17
J. Malcolm Garcia Troost Lake Missing Gene....................35
Kevin Prufer Country Club Plaza Cat in a Box....................51
Grace Suh Mission Hills Mission Hills Confidential....................65
Daniel Woodrell 12th Street Come Murder Me Next, Babe....................71
Matthew Eck 41st and Walnut The Softest Crime....................85
PART II: CRAZY LITTLE WOMEN....................109
Catherine Browder Northeast The Incident....................125
Linda Rodriguez South Troost The Good Neighbor....................138
John Lutz West 8th Street Thelma and Laverne....................151
PART III: SMOKE & MIRRORS....................169
Andrés Rodríguez Milton's Tap Room Yesterdays....................180
Mitch Brian The Celluloid City Last Night at the Rialto....................192
Nadia Pflaum 18th and Vine Charlie Price's Last Supper....................210
Phong Nguyen West Bottoms The Pendergast Musket....................220
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2014

    Ignore this and all noir series

    Leaves a bad taste if a fast food you d would eat it after the first smell

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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