Just because mystery fans will be unfamiliar with many of the 16 contributors to Akashic's latest entry in its acclaimed noir series (Brooklyn Noir, etc.) doesn't mean the quality isn't up to volumes boasting bigger names. The late John O'Brien, best known for his novel-turned-film, Leaving Las Vegas, offers a typically warped and nihilistic vision of the city with "The Tik," about a thrill-killing duo, narrated by the male half, whose indifference to his prey is chilling.A Columnist Tod Goldberg's "Mitzvah" makes good use of the Las Vegas myth that people come to the city to bury their past identities and reinvent themselves. His antihero, mobster Sal Cuperine, has for years posed as Rabbi David Cohen, managing to handle the demands of the pulpit until the strain of his charade becomes too much to bear. While some readers might regret that no tale other than Janet Berliner's "The Road to Rachel" explores Las Vegas's past, this anthology does a fine job of illuminating the dark underbelly of Sin City. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Las Vegas Noirby Jarret Keene
In this chilling portrait of America's Sin City, lady luck is just as likely to/i>
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Launched by the summer '04 award-winning bestseller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
In this chilling portrait of America's Sin City, lady luck is just as likely to dispense cold hard cash as a cold-hearted killing.
Brand-new stories by: John O’Brien, David Corbett, Scott Phillips, Nora Pierce, Bliss Esposito, Felicia Campbell, Jaq Greenspon, José Skinner, Pablo Medina, Christine McKellar, Lori Kozlowski, Vu Tran, Celeste Starr, Preston L. Allen, Tod Goldberg, and Janet Berliner. ??
Las Vegas provides the classic sophistication and darkness necessary for a deadly noir story. Stylish, sultry, brimming with ambition and greed, the characters that populate this literary Las Vegas are pushed to the extremes of human experience. From the neon glitter of the Strip to the treacherous views of Red Rock Canyon and Boulder City, from the desperation of Naked City to the racial tensions of the Westside, no other location offers so many different avenues leading to serious trouble.
Many legendary authors have turned their attention to Vegas to investigate the city's moods and mysteries. Now, the most recent crop of acclaimed writers explore the secret neighborhoods and byways of America's most sinful city, offering readers not only compelling noir tales but also an insider's understanding of this steamy oasis. These authors take readers beneath the surface flash of Freemont Street and the Strip and into the gritty multicultural environs of underground Vegas.
Jarret Keene is author/editor of three books, including the poetry collection Monster Fashion, the alt-travel tome The Underground Guide to Las Vegas, and the unauthorized rock bio The Killers: Destiny Is Calling Me. He lives in Las Vegas.
Todd James Pierce is the author of three books, including the novel A Woman of Stone and the short story collection Newsworld, which won the 2006 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. He is an assistant professor of English at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, California.??
Read an ExcerptLas Vegas Noir
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Introduction The Most Dangerous City in America
O oh, Las Vegas," sang the pioneering country-rocker Gram Parsons. "Every time I hit your Crystal City, you know you're gonna make a wreck out of me." As Las Vegans, we regularly read about these wrecked lives in newspapers and magazines. We routinely observe people going about their wildly destructive antics on mainstream TV. Often we can't believe these stories are unfolding in our city. They almost seem like put-ons, elaborate pranks borrowed from atrocious cut-rate screenplays. But there they are, these inhabitants of our city, their mug shots staring us down, making us wonder if what Parsons said is really true-that in Las Vegas your only real friend is the queen of spades.
How crazy does crime get in Las Vegas? Well, consider these tales taken from local papers:
Husband-and-wife champion bodybuilders strangle their personal assistant, torching her body in a red Jaguar in the Vegas desert. Eventually police apprehend the couple in a shopping center, where the killers are drinking root beer and getting manicures.
Failing in his effort to sexually assault a female parishioner, a Catholic priest clobbers his intended victim with a wine bottle before going on the lam. According to a police report, he tells the church worker, her consciousness fading, "I am over the edge."
And then there's this: O.J. Simpson, who years ago was found "not guilty" of decapitating his wife and her lover, storms into a hotel room with armed accomplices to "retrieve items that belonged to him," sports memorabilia like his Hall of Fame certificate and photos of him standing beside J. Edgar Hoover.
On it goes, a litany of wicked behavior and stupid folly. People come from all over the world to do dumb, dangerous things in Sin City, whether it's someone locking himself in a Fremont Street motel to kick a nasty heroin habit, hooking up to an oxygen tank in a last-ditch scheme to double his nest egg at the downtown slots, or shooting a weekend porn flick that goes disastrously wrong once a rabid pit bull is introduced. In these true-life narratives, no one shows up in Las Vegas to do anything smart, tactful, or even kind. Instead, they come here to fuck up. Big time.
The sheer range of true Las Vegas crime-no doubt spurred on by the city's explosive growth (which recently passed the two million mark)-can be intimidating to crime writers and readers alike. How can literary fiction surpass the strangeness of this place? Indeed, it takes a lot to top the gaudy spectacle that is Las Vegas, and we're happy to report that the writers who contributed to this volume have done just that. They've beaten the odds to conjure characters and stories that transcend any of the lurid dramas of Vegas you'll read about in newspapers or watch on the tube.
The stories gathered in Las Vegas Noir are written by longtime residents and avid chroniclers of Sin City, authors who take you far beyond the neon of Caesars Palace and into neighborhoods too dangerous for CSI. Absolutely cliché-free, these stories are full of flesh-and-blood characters trapped in dire circumstances that only real Las Vegas neighborhoods can spring.
The late John O'Brien, author of Leaving Las Vegas, gives us the story "The Tik," in which a junkie hooked on a mysterious drug reunites with his wealthy ex-lover to embark on a thrill-killing expedition. In David Corbett's mystifying "Pretty Little Parasite," a Fremont Street cocktail waitress plagued by Holocaust nightmares believes coke dealing is the best way to become a stay-at-home mom. In Lori Kozlowski's "Three Times a Night, Every Other Night," an Irish pub singer banished to North Las Vegas and at the end of his professional rope is destined for a mobbed-up fate. Jaq Greenspon's "Disappear" centers on a down-and-out magician whose former assistant steals money-and may be fingering him to the bad guys. And in Celeste Starr's chilling "Dirty Blood," a simple pickup in a gay bar takes an unusual twist when the protagonist finds more than lubricant in his date's sock drawer.
There is plenty of heartbreak and humor (albeit of the blackest order) too. In Tod Goldberg's "Mitzvah," for instance, a con man masquerading as a rabbi feels trapped in the suburbs until he plans a brutal means of escape. In Scott Phillips's "Babs," an ex-stripper turned bar owner drags along a visiting Midwestern cartoon aficionado to reclaim some meth for a mutual friend. And Vu Tran's devastating "This or Any Desert" explores the fractured psyche of a renegade cop looking to avenge his Asian ex-wife's physical abuse at the hands of her new husband, a Chinatown businessman, with searing emotional and psychological insight.
Like we said, as fantastic and diverse as the Strip can be at night, it's got nothing on the vast array of stories collected here. Indeed, Las Vegas Noir, as you will soon discover, brings you into the gaudy bosom of our fair city-that is, the gaudy, lethal bosom that eventually presents itself once you wander far away from the Strip.
Jarret Keene & Todd James Pierce Las Vegas, Nevada March 2008
Excerpted from Las Vegas Noir Copyright © 2008 by Akashic Books. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Jarret Keene is author/editor of three books, including the poetry collection Monster Fashion, the alt-travel tome The Underground Guide to Las Vegas and the unauthorized rock bio The Killers: Destiny is Calling Me. He lives in Las Vegas. Todd James Pierce is the author of three books, including the novel A Woman of Stone and the short story collection Newsworld, which won the 2006 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. He is an assistant professor of English at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, California.
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This is a series of books that compile a number of very short stories and vignettes all based in a single city, Las Vegas in this instance. The writers are generally good, and in most cases published. After a while, I miss the substance of a complete novel, but if you like Vegas as a locale, you can't go wrong with this book. The crime genre is indicated in the title - Noir - which gives all the stories a similar dark, brooding, and sharp edge to them. This is the literary compliment of "cinema noir." I plan on reading the London Noir book next, although I will take a break and read one of Elizabeth George's novels first. Good read - easy to read while doing other things - the stories tend to be 15 pages in length. This is Vegas "old Style" before the glitzy legitimacy took over. And in many of these stories, what happened in Vegas not only stayed in Vegas ... but got buried in Vegas.
story colllection unpleasant at the best