"A book full of cries in the dark, heavy drinking in the thin gray light of winter, and other dark poses. In other words, the stories sneak in the back screen door of those summer cottages after Labor Day, after all the tourists have gone home and Cape Codders of the authors' imagination drop their masks and their guards. It's a fun read, a little like tracing the shoreline of a not-quite-familiar coast."
"David L. Ulin has put together a malicious collection of short stories that will stay with you long after you return home safe."
--The Cult: The Official Chuck Palahniuk Website
Includes brand-new stories by Paul Tremblay, Seth Greenland, Ben Greenman, Fred G. Leebron, David L. Ulin, Dana Cameron, Kaylie Jones, and others.
Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin has been vacationing in Cape Cod every summer since he was a boy. He knows the terrain inside and out; enough to identify the squalid underbelly of this allegedly idyllic location. His editing prowess is a perfect match for this fine volume.
David L. Ulin is book critic of the Los Angeles Times. From 2005 to 2010, he was the paper's book editor. He is the author of The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith, and is the editor of Another City: Writing from Los Angeles and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a 2002 California Book Award. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
About the Author
David L. Ulin is book critic, and former book editor, of the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time and The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Columbia Journalism Review, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. He has spent summers on Cape Cod for forty years.
Jedediah Berry’s first novel, The Manual of Detection (The Penguin Press, 2009), was awarded the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers, as well as the Crawford Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. His stories have appeared in journals and anthologies including Conjunctions, Chicago Review, Best American Fantasy, and Best New American Voices. Invaluable assistance on the story appearing in this book was provided by Marty Thomas.
Dana Cameron’s first Anna Hoyt story, “Femme Sole” (in Boston Noir) was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity awards. Her story here, set in the 1740s, was inspired by research at Great Island and the village of Wellfleet, which was part of Eastham until 1763. Whether writing noir, historical fiction, urban fantasy, or traditional mystery, Cameron’s crime novels and short fiction draws on her expertise in New England archaeology. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.
Elyssa East is the author of the Boston Globe best seller, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town. A New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, Dogtown won the 2010 L.L.Winship/PEN New England Award for best work of nonfiction and was named a “Must-Read Book” by the Massachusetts Book Awards. Her essays and reviews have been published in the New York Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, Dallas Morning News, Kansas City Star, and other publications nationwide.
Seth Greenland is a novelist and playwright. His novels include Shining City, The Bones, and the forthcoming The Angry Buddhist. His first play, Jungle Rot, was the recipient of the Kennedy Center/American Express Fund for New American Plays Award and the American Theatre Critics Association Award. His other produced plays include Jerusalem, Red Memories, and Girls in Movies. He first visited Cape Cod as a five-year-old.
Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including Superbad, Please Step Back, and What He’s Poised to Do. His most recent book is Celebrity Chekhov. He lives in Brooklyn.
William Hastings is a graduate student in the Solstice low-residency creative writing MFA program of Pine Manor College. While living on the Cape he worked as a golf course maintenance man, a special needs teacher, a middle and high school English teacher, and as a full-time waiter and prep cook. Besides Cape Cod, he has also lived in upstate New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania, the island of St. John, Denmark, Mexico, and Kuwait.
Kaylie Jones is the author of the acclaimed memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me and the novels A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (which was released as a Merchant Ivory Film), Celeste Ascending, and Speak Now. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Paris Review, the Washington Post, and others. Jones teaches at SUNY-Stony Brook’s Southampton College MFA Program in Writing, and in the low-residency MFA Program in Professional Writing at Wilkes University.
Fred G. Leebron is the program director of the MFA in creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte and a Professor of English at Gettysburg College. His novels have been published by Knopf, Doubleday, and Harcourt, and his stories appear frequently in magazines such as Tin House, TriQuarterly, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere, and have been selected for both Pushcart and O.Henry prize anthologies.
Adam Mansbach’s novels include The End of the Jews, winner of the California Book Award, and the best-selling Angry Black White Boy. The 2010–11 New Voices Professor of Fiction at Rutgers University, his forthcoming projects include a graphic novel, Nature of the Beast, and a children’s book, Go the Fuck to Sleep.
Lizzie Skurnick is the author of Shelf Discovery, a memoir of teen reading. She writes on books and culture for the New York Times, the Daily Beast, Politics Daily, the Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, and many other publications. A former vice-president of the board of the National Book Critics Circle, she is also the author of a book of poetry, Check-In. She lives in Jersey City.
Paul Tremblay is the author of the weird-boiled novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, and the short story collection In the Mean Time. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales and Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy, Volume 3. He has coedited a number of anthologies and can beat any crime writer in a game of one-on-one basketball. He still has no uvula and lives somewhere south of Boston with his wife and two kids.
Dave Zeltserman lives in the Boston area, and is the author of the “man out of prison” crime trilogy: Small Crimes, Pariah, and Killer. Small Crimes and Pariah were both picked by the Washington Post as best books of the year. His recent The Caretaker of Lorne Field was shortlisted by the ALA for Best Horror Novel of 2010. His latest, Outsourced, has been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film and is currently under development.
Read an Excerpt
Cape Cod Noir
By David L. Ulin
Akashic BooksCopyright © 2011 Akashic Books
All right reserved.
IntroductionSummer and Smoke
I first began to think of Cape Cod in noir-ish terms during the fall of 1979. I say that, of course, entirely in hindsight, since noir was not then part of my lexicon. I was eighteen, just out of high school, on a year off that would later take me to South Texas and San Francisco. My best friend and I were making this journey together, and before we left, I spent a week at his parents' cottage in Wellfleet, where he was living alone, working as a cranberry picker, stockpiling money for the trip. Every day, he would go to work, and I would pretend to write a novel, staring out the windows at the gray October sky. At night, we would go to bars. The house was on a marshy point of land known as Lieutenant's Island, which was only an island at high tide. Some nights, we'd come back to find the road flooded, as if it had never been at all. I was not new to the Cape—I'd spent summers there, or parts of summers, since 1971—but this was a more conditional experience, more elemental and more charged. The same was true of the bars we frequented: dark places, their air thick with cigarette smoke and a kind of survivor's tenacity. Cape Cod in the off-season was a hunkered-down place, if not in hibernation exactly then in a strange, suspended state. In those days, before the Internet, when even cable TV was still scarce, there was nothing to do but drink.
Here, we see the inverse of the Cape Cod stereotype, with its sailboats and its presidents. Here, we see the flip side of the Kennedys, of all those preppies in docksiders eating steamers, of the whale watchers and bicycles and kites. Here, we see the Cape beneath the surface, the Cape after the summer people have gone home. It doesn't make the other Cape any less real, but it does suggest a symbiosis, in which our sense of the place can't help but become more complicated, less about vacation living than something more nuanced and profound.
This, it might be said, is also the case with noir, which is the dime-store genre that exposes our hearts of darkness, the literary equivalent of the blues. In noir, bad things happen to good people—or more accurately, possibilities narrow, until every option is compromised and no one ever wins. How one deals with that might seem a narrative question, but noir is less about the particulars of story than it is about point-of-view. As for the way such a point-of-view asserts itself, I think of it as stoic, stripped clean of illusion, like the faces I used to see in those off-season bars. In noir, we know that help is not coming, that the universe devolves to entropy, that everything goes from bad to worse. And yet, if this leaves us resigned or even hopeless, we have no choice but to deal with it as best we can. "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun," Philip Marlowe observes in Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, a novel that helped define the noir aesthetic, and seventy-one years later, that air of desolate clarity, of a character staring into the abyss as the abyss stares back, is still the form's defining sensibility, a cry in the darkness of a world that is, at best, apathetic, and at worst, in violent disarray.
Cape Cod Noir is an attempt to pay tribute to that perspective even as it moves beyond the traditional landscape of noir. The idea is to stretch a little, to gather writing rich in local color, while remaining true to the ethos of the genre. Here, you'll find a range of work, from the contemporary noir of Paul Tremblay and Dave Zeltserman to the more fanciful creations of Adam Mansbach and Jedediah Berry, whose stories go in unexpected directions, asking us to question our assumptions about the form. Dana Cameron's "Ardent" takes us back to the eighteenth century, while Elyssa East and William Hastings portray a Cape Cod the tourist brochures don't recognize, marked by hard luck, history, and loss. In some stories, noir operates mostly in the background, like a whisper in the air. But this, too, is as it should be, for if there is a principle at work, it is that noir has become, in its three-quarters of a century of evolution, both stylized and supple, less a way of writing than a way of seeing, less about crime or plot or killing (although there is plenty of that in these pages) than about how we live.
What I'm saying, I suppose, is that noir forces us to face things, that it cuts to the chase. It functions, to borrow a phrase from William S. Burroughs, as a kind of "NAKED Lunch—a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork." We expect this when it comes to cities, where noir grew up during the Depression, or in the rural corners staked out by authors from Edward Anderson in the 1930s to Daniel Woodrell in the present day. Still, what my experiences on the Cape suggest is that noir is everywhere. You can see it in the desperate excitations of the summer people, the desire to make their vacations count. You can see it in the tension of the year-rounders, who rely on the seasonal trade for survival, even as they must tolerate having their communities overrun. You can see it in the history of the place; the Pilgrims landed first at Provincetown, after all. And after Labor Day, once the tourists have gone home, it is still a lot like it has always been: desolate, empty in the thin gray light, with little to do in the slow winter months. You drink, you brood, you wait for summer, when the cycle starts all over again.
When I was a kid, and first exploring my little corner of the Cape, I used to spend a lot of time alone. I would ride my bike or walk for hours, watching all the summertime activities, keeping myself a bit apart. Even then, I had the sense that there was more going on than I was seeing on the surface, that there were promises that had been left unkept. This, I've come to realize, is true everywhere, but it has a different feeling in a summer place. For me, Cape Cod is a repository of memory: forty summers in the same house will do that to you. But it is also a landscape of hidden tensions, which rise up when we least anticipate. In part, this has to do with social aspiration, which is one of the things that brought my family, like many others, to the Cape. In part, it has to do with social division, which has been a factor since at least the end of the nineteenth century, when the summer trade began. There are lines here, lines that get crossed and lines that never get crossed, the kinds of lines that form the web of noir. Call it what you want—summer and smoke is how I think of it—but that's the Cape Cod at the center of this book.
David L. Ulin March 2011
Excerpted from Cape Cod Noir by David L. Ulin Copyright © 2011 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.