Lawrence Block has won most of the major mystery awards, and has been called the quintessential New York writer, although he insists the city’s far too big to have a quintessential writer. His series charactersMatthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr, Evan Tanner, Chip Harrison, and Kellerall live in Manhattan; like their creator, they wouldn’t really be happy anywhere else.
"A pleasing variety of Manhattan neighborhoods come to life in Block's solid anthology...the writing is of a high order and a nice mix of styles."
"Feel the dread, the angled shadow, the sidelong quicks, the pitter-patter of running blood, the femme fatales' will she/won’t she/she did, the creep of the heel, and the stone causes the hitch and the hitch and the stumble. Manhattan Noir’s got it all and then some...Thick with tradition, rich with revelation, and as sweet as Hard Crime itself, Manhattan Noir is just desserts indeed. Dig in."
"[A] thrilling new anthology in the Noir series from Akashic Books . . . This latest addition to the Noir family takes a sizable bite out of the big apple."
Future MYSTERY Anthology Magazine
"A fun read that’s sure to please mystery lovers and fans of New York fiction."
About the Author
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THE GOOD SAMARITAN by Charles ArdaiMidtown
Rain battered the sidewalk and the storefronts. The wind played games with people's umbrellas, teasing in under the ribs and then whipping them inside out and back again. One umbrella handle and shaft, discarded by its owner, skittered along the curb in an overflow from the gutter.
There were hardly any people on the street. Those there walked quickly, heads bent, shoulders hunched forward, buckling umbrellas held before them like shields. A few sought refuge under awnings and in doorways. One stood bravely in the street, a hand held high in a desperate attempt to hail a taxi.
Harold Sladek sat where he always sat this time of night: in the shadow of the service entrance to Body Beautiful. The doorway offered little protection from the rain since it was less than a foot deep, but it was better than sitting out on the sidewalk itself. At least he wasn't completely surrounded by the elements; at least Harold could feel concrete behind and beneath him. Solidity — that was something.
It was also a matter of habit: He always slept in the doorway at Body Beautiful, even though it was no better than any of the other service entrances up and down the avenue. It was part of his routine, forged over the course of many years, many rainstorms. Solidity of a different sort, but no less important.
Harold held a copy of Cosmopolitan, spread open at the center, over his head. He felt water trickle down between his fingers. After a few minutes, the glossy paper become waterlogged and slick, and eventually the magazine pulled apart in his hands. When this happened, Harold threw it into the street and pulled another issue out of the plastic bag next to him. He had found the stack of magazines tied with string next to a trash can on the corner of Lexington and 79th. His original thought had been to sell the magazines for a quarter apiece further uptown, on Broadway where all the booksellers were. But if the magazines could keep him dry, or even just a little bit drier, that was worth giving up a quarter or two.
The second issue started dripping ink-stained water onto his forehead. Harold threw it away, wiped his hands on his drenched pants, and started on a third.
He didn't notice immediately when someone approached the doorway and stopped next to his bags. The magazine cut off much of his line of sight, and the rain, spraying him in the face with every fresh gust of wind, cut off the rest. But at one point, between gusts, he glanced beside him and saw a pair of legs in ash-gray trousers and, next to them, a dripping, folded umbrella.
Harold put the magazine down behind him. It wasn't quite soaked through yet, so it was too valuable to throw away. But he wasn't going to sit with a magazine over his head while another man stood next to him with an umbrella he wasn't even using.
He looked up, squinting against the rain. The other man was bending forward, sheltering his head under the overhang. The rest of him was exposed. The rain blew on the man's suit and he just stood and took it, one hand in his pants pocket, the other on the handle of his umbrella.
"Mister," Harold said, "don't you mind the rain?"
The man shook his head. "Just water," he said. "A little water never hurt anyone."
Harold had shouted; the other man had spoken at a normal level, or maybe even a little quieter. So even though Harold had leaned into it, he hadn't caught the words. "What?" he said.
The man bent at the knees. He stuck the umbrella straight out in front of them and pressed the release. It opened up enormously, suddenly cutting them off from the storm. "I said, a little water never hurt anyone."
He still spoke quietly but now the storm was muted behind the umbrella, and Harold heard him. "I don't know," Harold said. "But I'm not going to argue with a guy's got an umbrella."
The man smiled. He took his hand out of his pocket and brought with it a slightly battered pack of cigarettes. "Smoke?" The man thumbed the pack open and extended it.
It was suddenly dry and quiet — relatively dry and relatively quiet — and a man Harold had never seen before was offering him a cigarette. Why? Harold tried to read the answer in the man's eyes. They didn't reveal a lot. They were ordinary eyes in an ordinary face. They had wrinkles at the corners and were overhung by untrimmed gray eyebrows. They were not cruel, or cloudy, or cold, or anything else in particular. Just eyes. Just a face. Just a man doing his fellow man a good turn.
Harold plucked a cigarette out of the pack and stuck it between his lips. Then he looked up again, to get another read on those eyes. Whatever he thought he might see, he didn't.
You're on the street, you can't be too careful, Harold told himself. Careful keeps you alive. But there are limits. When a guy comes by and offers you a cigarette, you take it and say thank you. It doesn't happen every day.
Harold reached back to take another, for later, or maybe two or even three as long as the guy was offering. But the pack of cigarettes was gone now, replaced with a brass lighter. At least it looked like brass — hard to tell in a dark doorway.
Harold leaned into the flame. It took three tries for him to catch it on the tip of the cigarette. He dragged deep when it caught, let the warmth rush into his throat and lungs. First cigarette in ... how long? Hard to say. You lost track of exact time living on the street. But it had to have been at least a month.
"Thanks," Harold said.
"Don't mention it." The man straightened up, lifting the umbrella and stepping around so that he was standing in front of Harold. "Make the night a little easier to get through."
"You're a mensch," Harold said. "You know what that is, a mensch?"
The man nodded. "What's your name?"
Harold coughed, a wet, rattling sound he brought up from deep in his chest. "Harry."
"You take care, Harry," the man said.
"Don't you worry about me. I been through storms would make this look like pissing in a can. You take care — you got the nice suit." Harold made himself smile up at the man. He thought, Maybe the guy will leave me the umbrella. Then he thought, What, and walk out in the rain without it? Next he thought, I could probably take it away from him. But finally he thought, The guy gave you a cigarette, talked to you, passed his time with you, kept you dry for a while, and you mug him for his umbrella? Schmuck.
He thought all this in the time it took him to take two more drags on the cigarette.
"I hate to ask," Harold said, not quite able to get the umbrella fantasy out of his mind, "but would you mind standing there while I finish this? A little easier without the rain in my face ..." He let his words trail off. The man was shaking his head.
"Sorry. I have to be somewhere."
"Nah, that's okay, I understand." Harold raised the cigarette.
"Thanks for the smoke."
"My pleasure," the man said.
"Sladek, Harold R. R for Robert." The detective flipped through the creased wallet he'd retrieved from Harold's pocket. There was a long-expired driver's license from New Jersey; a photograph of Harold, when his hair had been brown; another photograph of Harold and a woman standing next to a white-iced, pink-flowered cake; a stained dollar bill with one corner missing; and an ancient business card, smudged and bent, listing Harold Robert Sladek as Assistant Manager for J.C. Penney, New York.
The detective nudged his partner with his elbow. "Check the bags."
The younger man bent to look through the plastic bags, still standing in a puddle of water.
At the curb, a uniformed officer, the one who had found Sladek's body, was coordinating getting the covered corpse into the EMS van. He had radioed for EMS instead of the morgue because he had thought Sladek was still alive.
"... four, five, six magazines, a pullover, a comb, half a ... a ... I don't know, I guess it's a baguette," the partner said. "A French bread. Whatever." The detective took notes. "A couple napkins. Bag of Doritos. A WKXW-FM baseball cap."
"He must have got that at the Turtle Bay street fair," the detective said. "They were giving them away on Saturday. I got one."
The partner looked up.
"Never mind," the detective said. "Go on."
"One sneaker, no laces. One copy of The Dark Half by Stephen King, paperback, no cover. One plastic cup. A roll of toilet paper. A disposable razor. Three, four, five soda cans, empty. One pocket Bible." He stopped, glanced around. "That's it." The partner noticed the issue of Cosmopolitan that was lying in the corner. He picked it up, shook off a cigarette butt, and held it out to the detective. "One more magazine."
The detective added it to the list, then flipped his notebook closed and dropped the wet magazine back where it had been lying. He slipped the photos and the business card back into the wallet. "Poor bastard. Guy had a good job once. Had a place to live. Had a family."
"Once upon a time. What he had now was a baseball cap and six copies of Cosmopolitan magazine. Seven, excuse me."
"What the hell's wrong with this city? An old man like this lying dead in a doorway, nobody even calls it in."
"It's New York, what do you want?"
"The man's lying there, dead. An old man, dead on the street, and people just walk past him."
"This is news to you?"
The detective walked back to the prowl car waiting at the curb. "You know, my father's name was Harold."
"Lots of people's name is Harold, man. Snap out of it. This guy's not your father. It's a homeless man was out in the rain too long. Sad story. Unhappy ending. Life goes on."
"Not for him," the detective said.
Angela's finger hovered over the cigarettes, lined up in three neat rows. Finally, her hand darted out and came back with one clamped between thumb and forefinger.
The man closed the pack, returned it to his pocket, and took out his lighter. Angela cupped her hand around the flame and carefully lit the cigarette. "Thanks," she said. "Man, what a night."
The rain had started again. But behind the huge umbrella they were both dry.
"Hey," she said, "you want to have a little fun ...?" She picked up the hem of her dress, pulled it above her knees. She had a purple mark on the inside of one thigh. For the first time, the man stopped smiling. Angela said, "It's just a bruise."
"Thank you, no," the man said.
Angela shrugged. She drew on the cigarette. Pushed her dress down over her legs again.
"It's been a pleasure to meet you, Angela," the man said, standing up. "Take care of yourself."
"Yeah." She watched him back away. "Thanks for the smoke. Come back if you change your mind."
The man nodded.
"I don't have any diseases. If that's what you're worried about."
"No," the man said. "I'm not worried about your having diseases."
Something in his voice put her off. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean it in the best way. You're a young woman, Angela. You look very healthy. I'm sure you have no diseases."
Angela smiled, a fixed, frozen smile that was part arrogance, part fear, and no part happiness. "That's right. I'm so clean you could eat off me."
"I'm sure," the man said. "Good night, Angela."
The headline the story carried in the Daily News was only slightly inaccurate: "Runaway Poisoned Behind Penn Station." Angela Nicholas had not run away. She had been thrown out of her home. Her mother emphasized that point, stabbing it into her husband's shoulder with her index finger while the man looked down at his hands in his lap and mumbled apologies to her, to himself, to God.
The detective took notes. There had been a fight. There had been many fights. A boy had been the subject of one of the fights. Other boys had been the subject of other fights, or maybe the same boy had. It wasn't clear. What was clear was that the father had delivered an ultimatum: That boy doesn't enter this house again or you don't enter it again.
Angela had brought the boy back. The next day, her clothes were on the sidewalk. She had beaten on the door, crying, and the mother had wanted to let her back in. But her husband had held her back. When they finally opened the door, Angela was gone. When they phoned around to all her friends — even, finally, to the boy, who hung up on them — they couldn't find her.
Three years later, they found her. No, that wasn't quite accurate, either: The police had found her. The point was, she had been found. But she had been dead.
Did the police have any idea who had done it? The detective shook his head. He could have told the mother that it had probably been one of Angela's tricks, but contrary to popular belief in the precinct house, he actually did have a heart. "We currently have no information, Mrs. Nicholas." Which wasn't entirely true, since that man, Sladek, had turned out to have been poisoned, too, and with the same poison, so that was — maybe — a starting point. But it was close enough to true. Anyway, he said it.
"How did it happen? How could this happen?"
"We aren't certain. Our lab is working on it."
The father finally stirred to life, raising his head, his eyes burning.
"You find the man who did this and I'll kill him."
"Haven't you done enough?" Mrs. Nicholas said.
"Do you have a daughter, sergeant?"
"A son," the detective said.
"Well, if somebody did to your son what somebody did to my daughter," Mr. Nicholas said, "what would you do?"
I'd kill the son of a bitch, the detective said. To himself. "I'd let the proper authorities handle it."
Mr. Nicholas shook his head. "With a daughter it's different."
For the first night in a week, it wasn't raining. The detective looked at the map he'd made, showing the streets from 32nd to 45th on the West Side. The locations where the bodies had been found were marked with red circles. They were spread around — enough so that it didn't look like there was a pattern. But five homeless people dead in the course of seven weeks? All poisoned? It wasn't obvious that this was the work of just one person, but that the deaths were connected the detective had no doubt.
He started at the uptown end, the theater district. As you left the streets dominated by Disney marquees, you found the remnants of the old Times Square: novelty shops, import/export storefronts, peep shows, For Rent signs. Plenty of homeless people to talk to.
The detective took his time, walking slowly, keeping his eyes open — for what, he wasn't sure. He stopped whenever he saw someone sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against a street lamp, lying under a filthy quilt in a cardboard box. He introduced himself, asked whether the person had seen anything unusual lately.
Mostly they said no.
One man said, "You not going to get anyone to tell you anything. They too scared."
"You scared?" the detective asked.
"Bet your ass I'm scared."
"I don't want to end up dead."
"We all end up dead," the detective said.
"Not me, man. I'm not ready yet."
"So why don't you tell me, who is it that people are scared of?"
The man just shook his head emphatically.
"Why? Why won't you tell me?"
"Maybe it's you."
"For god's sake, I'm a cop. I'm not going to hurt you."
"You're a cop don't mean nothing. You know that, I know that, everybody know that."
The detective moved on. Could it be a cop? He thought about it. A frustrated beat cop, maybe, out to clean up the neighborhood in his off time? An old PD hack, about to hit retirement, sick of seeing bums lining the sidewalk? It was possible. He didn't want to think about it.
Below Port Authority, the number of homeless people dropped to only one or two per block. The detective walked down Eighth Avenue, came back on Broadway, walked down again on Sixth.
At 42nd and Sixth, at the entrance to Bryant Park, a blind man was leaning on a propped-up piece of cardboard lettered with the words, "God Bless You If You Help Me." He was smoking a long, filter-tipped cigarette. The smoke formed a gray wreath around his face.
"Evening," the detective said.
"God bless," the man said. He groped for his cup and then raised it, shaking the coins inside.
"I'm with the police." The detective squatted next to the man, pulled out his wallet, and put the man's hand onto his badge. The man's eyebrows rose and his mouth crinkled into a smile. He put the cup down.
"How are you doing, officer?"
"Could be worse. You?"
"Good night for me," the man said, hugging himself against the chill. "Most nights nobody talks to me. Tonight you're the second."
"Really? Who was the other?"
He thought for a moment. "Man about your age, I'd say. Little older maybe. Pleasant fellow. Talked to me a while, just a minute ago." He lifted his cigarette. "Gave me a smoke."
"Nice of him," the detective said. "Listen, you notice anything out of the ordinary around here lately?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"We're conducting an investigation."
"Well, I haven't seen a thing," the man said. He laughed softly to himself.
The detective dropped a handful of change into the man's cup before walking away.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Manhattan Noir"
Copyright © 2006 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.
Table of Contents
Charles Ardai Midtown The Good Samaritan,
Carol Lea Benjamin Greenwich Village The Last Supper,
Lawrence Block Clinton If You Can't Stand the Heat,
Thomas H. Cook Battery Park Rain,
Jeffery Deaver Hell's Kitchen A Nice Place to Visit,
Jim Fusilli George Washington Bridge The Next Best Thing,
Robert Knightly Garment District Take the Man's Pay,
John Lutz Upper West Side The Laundry Room,
Liz Martínez Washington Heights Freddie Prinze Is My Guardian Angel,
Maan Meyers Lower East Side The Organ Grinder,
Martin Meyers Yorkville Why Do They Have to Hit?,
S.J. Rozan Harlem Building,
Justin Scott Chelsea The Most Beautiful Apartment in New York,
C.J. Sullivan Inwood The Last Round,
Xu Xi Times Square Crying with Audrey Hepburn,
About the Contributors,