Don’t let the fabulous weather, the beach bodies, and the high-end boutiques fool you. There is a darkness to Miami that can hit just as hard as a hurricane. If by day, the streets are lined with tourists, at night the gangsters, drug dealers, and desperate come out to play. It’s this Miami that has captured the imagination of some of the city’s best writers.
Miami Noir includes stories by James W. Hall, Barbara Parker, John Dufresne, Paul Levine, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Tom Corcoran, Christine Kling, George Tucker, Kevin Allen, Anthony Dale Gagliano, David Beaty, Vicki Hendricks, John Bond, Preston Allen, Lynne Barrett, and Jeffrey Wehr.
“For different reasons these stories cultivate a little something special, a radiance, a humanity, even a grace, In the midst of the noir gloom, and thereby set themselves apart. Variety, familiarity, mood and tone, and the occasional gem of a story make Miami Noir a collection to savor.” —The Miami Herald
“Murder is nothing new in Miami—or any other big city, for that matter. But seldom has it been so entertaining as it is in the 16 short stories included in Miami Noir.” —Palm Beach Daily News
“This well-chosen short story collection isn’t just a thoughtful compilation of work by some of South Florida’s best and upcoming writers. Each Miami Noir story also is a window on a different part of Miami-Dade and its melting pot of cultures.” —South Florida Sun-Sentinel
About the Author
Date of Birth:October 31, 1945
Place of Birth:Cambridge, Ohio
Education:B.A., Muskingum College; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Utah
Read an Excerpt
RIDE ALONG by James W. HallCoconut Grove
Jumpy was reaching for the door handle to get out when Guy took hold of his arm, saying, "Nothing weird this time. Promise me."
Jumpy took a few seconds to turn his head and look at Guy.
He had a point. It was more than weird already, an oddball pair like them out on a Sunday morning, 4 a.m., parked in a gravel lane next to a boarded-up house, with the orange sulfur lights from Douglas Road flickering like sky-fire through the big banyans. Three blocks north was the rubble and peeling paint of the Coconut Grove ghetto, three blocks the other way the mansions rose like giant concrete hibiscus blooms, pink and yellow, surrounded by high fortress walls, video cams, and coconut palms. The have-nots getting the exhaust fumes from Dixie Highway, the haves taking nice sweet hits on the ocean breezes.
Thirty feet in front of where Guy was parked, standing next to a battered Oldsmobile, two black dudes were fidgeting while Guy and Jumpy stayed inside the white Chevy with the headlights off. Been there two, three minutes already. Doing deals with fidgety folks wasn't Guy's idea of good business practice.
"The soul train must have a station around here," Jumpy said.
"You're jacking yourself up, man. I told you. You freak out this time, it's over, I walk."
"I don't like dreadlocks," Jumpy said.
"It's a hairstyle is all," Guy told him. "A Rastafarian thing from Jamaica. Same as a crew cut is to you."
"I never did like dreadlocks. It's a gut reaction."
"Okay, so you don't like dreadlocks. But a little fashion incompatibility, that isn't going to keep us from doing our business, right?"
"It looks dirty," Jumpy said. "Unkempt."
"Yeah, well, then let's forget it. Start the car, get the hell out of here."
"You losing your nerve, teach? Get right up close to the devil, feel his warm breath on your face, then you back away?"
"Nothing weird, okay? That's all I'm asking."
Jumpy was 6'4?, skinny as a greyhound, pasty-skinned, all knuckles and Adam's apple. Kind of muscles that were easy to miss in that string bean body, like the braided steel cables holding a suspension bridge together. From what Guy had been able to learn, Jumpy had a couple of years of college, then he'd shipped out as a Marine for two hitches, then a lone-wolf mercenary for a while, off in Rwanda and Venezuela, spent a few years in a federal pen in Kansas, now he was on the prowl in Miami. Whatever unspeakable shit he'd been into never came up directly in conversation. Guy didn't ask, Jumpy didn't say. But it was there like a bad smell leaking from a locked room. The man was dangerous, and Guy loved it. Got a little tipsy from the proximity. So much to learn, so much to bring back to his own safe world. Riding the knife blade of violence, ever so careful not to get cut.
Jumpy didn't pump up his past. Very understated, even flip. Guy considered that a form of extreme cool, like those muscle-bound bodybuilders who only wore loose clothes. Tight shirts were for showboat assholes.
Jumpy didn't have to flaunt. There was a halo around him nobody could miss, a haze of androgen and pheromones that could turn a barroom edgy in a blink. Guy had seen nights when the bad boys lined up for a chance at Jumpy, pool cue in one hand, switchblade in the other, one by one coming at him like twigs into a wood chipper. Going in solid, coming out a spew of sawdust.
Trouble was, in Jumpy's line of work, nuance might be a better strategy than overwhelming force. But try to tell that to Jumpy. Dialing back that guy's throttle, even for Guy, a silver-tongued specialist, a man Jumpy respected, it could present a challenge. Not that Guy was morally opposed to violence. In the abstract, inflicting pain and drawing blood was fine. He'd written about it for years, described it in excruciating detail. But putting it into flesh-and-blood action, no, that wasn't his instinctive first choice like it was with Jumpy.
"So we cool on this?" Guy said. "Do your deal and walk. No crazyass banter, no stare-downs. Right?"
Jumpy kept his lasers fixed on the two dreadlocks.
"I need some signal of agreement, Jumpy. A grunt is enough."
Jumpy turned his head and blinked. That was all Guy was getting.
They got out and Guy tried to match Jumpy's casual saunter over to the Olds.
The two gangstas insisted on patting Guy down, then after a moment's indecision, they did a hurry-up job frisking Jumpy and stepped away like they'd burned their hands. The tall one went around to the trunk of the Olds and popped the lid.
Guy stayed a couple of steps behind Jumpy while the tall dude, wearing a black T-top and baggy shorts, showed off the Squad. His dreadlock buddy stood by the driver's door watching. His right hand fiddling around his shirttail, ready to quick-draw if things went bad.
Dreadlock One was extolling the merits of the Squad Automatic Weapon, otherwise known as SAW. Eight hundred — meter range, lightweight, just over twenty pounds with the two hundred — round magazine. Talking straight English with a little Bahamian singsong, none of the hip-hop, webadass bullshit.
When Dreadlock One paused, Guy said, "You want to hold it, Jumpy? Inspect it?"
Jumpy was silent.
"One of you should check that shit, man, we don't want no pissing and moaning later on."
"Let me know when the sales pitch is over," Jumpy said. "I'll get the cash."
Dreadlock One shifted his angle, moving for a better view of Guy.
"What're you looking at?"
"That's what I'm asking myself," he said.
"Do that again?" Guy said.
"Who'm I doing business with," Dreadlock One asked, "man or woman? From across the way, you look like a dude; up close like this, you could be a bull-dyke bitch."
Guy felt Jumpy shift closer to him.
"Happens all the time," Guy said. "It's the haircut."
Guy had blond shoulder-length Jesus hair, slender hips, and sleek Scandinavian features. A man of long smooth planes. Not feminine so much as asexual. A floater. Hovering between the sexes. Some women found him sexy, and just about as many men.
"More than the freaking haircut. It's your whole entire weird-ass self."
Jumpy stepped between Guy and Dreadlock One and said, "Why don't you reach down my partner's pants and find out?"
The second dreadlock cackled, then grinned a big gold smile. "Yeah, Willie, do it, man, reach your hand in there and squeeze."
"I was just curious," Willie said. "It don't matter. Forget it."
"Don't be shy," said Jumpy. "Reach in, take a handful, make yourself happy. Guy's cool with that, aren't you, Guy?"
Willie stared at Guy's face for a few ticks, then shook his dreads.
Jumpy took two quick steps and grabbed Willie's hand, took a grip on Guy's belt buckle, pulled it out, and jammed the dude's spidery fingers down the front of Guy's pants.
The other dread had his pistol out and was aiming at Jumpy, ordering him to step the fuck away from his partner, let him go, stop that shit.
Jumpy released Willie's hand and the man yanked it out of Guy's pants.
"So what am I?" Guy said.
Willie didn't say anything. He turned and saw his partner with the pistol out.
"Put that shit away, man. Put it away."
"So what I am?" Guy said. "Did your field trip enlighten you?"
"Two thousand for the SAW. Five hundred for the loaded magazine. Take it or leave it, no negotiating."
"Two for the whole caboodle or I'm outta here. Starting now. Ten, nine, eight, seven ..."
"Two'll do," Willie said.
"Hard bargainer," Jumpy said. "Tough nut."
Jumpy and Guy walked back over to the stolen Chevy, Jumpy getting into the passenger seat. Staying there for a minute, another minute with Guy standing back by the trunk waiting, watching, recording.
Jumpy's door was swung wide open, the overhead light on.
The two dreadlocks were talking near their Olds Ciera, but after a while they started shooting looks over. Willie held the SAW in one hand.
Jumpy sat there and sat there and sat some more until finally the head dread came strolling. Dumbass carrying the SAW one-handed.
"You got the bread or you fucking with me?"
"It's stuck," Jumpy said. "Fucking glove box is stuck."
Jumpy leaned back in the seat, gestured toward the glove compartment.
Willie leaned in the door, peered through the darkness.
"You got a screwdriver," Jumpy said, "something that can pry it open?"
Willie craned another inch forward and Jumpy took a grip on the padded handle and slammed the door closed on the dreadlock's neck. Opened it and slammed it again and then a third time. Then one more for good luck and pushed the dread out of the way and reached down to the gravel and took hold of the SAW and aimed it out the crook of the open door at Dreadlock Two, who was trotting over with a big-ass chrome .45 in his right hand.
Guy was frozen. It was a freaking movie streaming around him. Every outrageous, amazing second of it. Hand down the pants and all.
The SAW kicked against Jumpy's shoulder. Jumpy fired again over Dreadlock Two's head, yelling at him to drop his weapon. Which he did. Not giving it a second thought, just tossing it into the gravel.
The downed dread struggled to his feet. Jumpy aimed the SAW at his chest.
"So what're we going to have here? Two dead assholes?"
"No, man. Don't be doing that. Ain't no need. We just get the fuck up and be gone."
"Sounds like a plan," Jumpy said. He fired the SAW into the air and the two men sprinted off toward the neighborhood where lights were coming on in bedrooms.
Jumpy got out of the Chevy and walked over to the Oldsmobile. "We got about ten seconds. You coming? Or you want to stay here and get the police point of view on things?"
Guy trotted over to the Oldsmobile and got in.
Jumpy pitched the SAW onto the backseat. Guy could smell its oily warmth. Jumpy must've used nearly forty rounds. Which left one-sixty still in the magazine.
Guy started the car. Put the shifter into drive and made a U-turn.
"Can you use any of that?" Jumpy said when they were five blocks away, cruising down Douglas Road into the ritzy jungle shadows of Coconut Grove.
"Think I can," Guy said. "Yes sir. I think I most certainly can."
Guy dug the little Sony from his front pocket and found the record button and he started to speak into the miniature device. Jumpy smiled and took them south toward the condo parking lot where he'd left his old Civic.
Sirens filled the night like the wails of predatory beasts circling their night's meal.
"What's this mean?" Jumpy held up a sheaf of papers.
He was standing in the doorway of Dr. Guy Carmichael's tiny windowless cubicle. Guy's office hours were from 4 till 6. At 6:15 his evening graduate fiction workshop started and ran till 9:40. At the moment it was 5:30, so at worst he'd have to deal with Jumpy for fifteen minutes before he could claim he had to rush off to class.
"Could you be more precise? What does what mean?"
"Okay," Jumpy said. "What the fuck is this? A fucking C minus on my story."
"Did you read my comments? Is there something you're confused about?"
Jumpy looked down the hall, then checked the other direction. He was wearing a white button-down shirt and blue jeans and loafers without socks. Trying to fit in with some preppie image of a college student still surviving from his first fling at higher education back in the early '70s.
"I wrote what happened. You were there. You saw it. This is what happened. And that's all it's worth? Not even a fucking C? What've I got to do, kill somebody to get an A?"
"It's the writing," Guy said. "Not the events you describe."
"On my paper you said — shit, where is it?" Jumpy started fumbling through the typed pages, looking for Guy's tiny scrawl.
Jumpy used a battered Royal typewriter and he whited out his mistakes with big glops smeared across paragraphsized portions of his paper. Guy admired his stamina, hunched over the tiny machine, those enormous fingers drilling letter after letter onto the white page. Stamina was one thing. Talent was another. Guy had tried hard with Jumpy, made him a special project, devoted hours and hours to one-on-one's in his office and in a bar on Biscayne. But after a minute or two of anything short of unadulterated praise, Jumpy glazed over and slid back into the murky grotto inside his bulletproof skull.
Jumpy found the comment he'd been searching for and put a finger on Guy's words as he read.
It's not credible that two such dissimilar men would pair up for such an effort. That's what I mean. Not credible But we did. We paired up. So why in fuck's name is that a C minus?"
"You have to convince the reader it's credible."
"You're the reader, Guy. You were fucking there. You were fucking standing right there pissing your fucking Dockers. And you don't believe what happened right in front of your fucking eyes? I'm missing something here."
One of Guy's grad students, Mindy Johnston, stuck her head in the doorway and said, "Ooops. Didn't mean to interrupt."
Mindy was a poet, aggressively ethereal. Wispy red hair, enormous breasts that defeated her every attempt to conceal them.
"I just came by to drop off my assignment. I can't be in class tonight. Migraine's acting up."
Guy accepted the paper and told Mindy he hoped she felt better soon.
"Try a pop of heroin," Jumpy said. "Blow that migraine right away."
Jumpy's gaze was fixed on Mindy's bosom. A smile slathered on his lips.
"Heroin?" Mindy said.
"Say the word, and I'll drop a couple of hits off at your apartment. Special delivery. First two are free."
She squinched up her face into something between a smile and a scream.
"That's a joke, right?" Mindy backed out of the office and floated quickly down the hallway.
"Inappropriate," Guy muttered.
Jumpy said, "You got anything going Saturday night?"
Guy drummed the nub of his red ink pen against his desktop.
"Not more gun dealing," Guy said. "I've had my fill of that."
"I got so much shit going on I gotta get a bigger appointment book," Jumpy said. "Name your poison. Something that'll get me an A this time."
"I remember one time you mentioned organized crime. That caught my attention. There's a place in the book I'm working on, I could use some details."
"The mob," Jumpy said. Then he looked around Guy's office at the framed diplomas, the photographs of his kids and wife and two little dogs.
"Might could arrange something," Jumpy said. "I'll give you a call."
"And about that C minus," Guy said.
"Yeah?" "I'll read it again. Maybe I missed something the first time."
"That's cool," said Jumpy. "Maybe you did."
Jumpy picked Guy up in the Pink Pussycat parking lot at 1 a.m. on Saturday. He was driving a green Jaguar convertible, top down. Chrome wraparound sunglasses and a black aloha shirt with red martini glasses printed on it.
Guy got in, and without a word or look in his direction, Jumpy peeled out, slashed into traffic on Biscayne. Once they'd settled down into the flow of vehicles, Guy smoothed his hand across the leather seat. His long blond hair tangling in the wind.
"It is tonight."
"A loaner," Guy said, smiling, trying to get with the lingo.
Jumpy looked over. His expression was dead tonight, maybe he was working himself up, or he was nervous, Guy couldn't tell. That had been his biggest challenge, trying to capture the interior life of a man like Jumpy. Was he constantly on drugs and so blitzed there was no coherent thought rolling through his head? Or was he dumb, just incapable of nuanced feelings or thought? Based on the writing Guy had seen, he was tilting toward the dumb option. Jumpy couldn't string two sentences together without making half a dozen errors of grammar, syntax, or logic. By the end of a paragraph, Jumpy's ideas were so insufferably scrambled, making sense of his story was impossible.
Guy was getting good detail from these ride-alongs, some nice asshole-puckering moments of violence, but overall, Jumpy wasn't giving away a lot about his psychodynamics. What pushed the man's buttons? Who the hell could tell?
After tonight, Guy figured he'd bail on this whole enterprise. He'd had enough of the street for a while. A night or two like the gun-buy last week could keep Guy satiated for a good long time. His wife, Shelly, had no idea what he was up to. But she could smell the fear on him when he returned, the stink of sweat and cigarette smoke and the prickly tang of danger. And she was beginning to make irritable noises.
So after tonight Guy was done. Cash out, walk away with his winnings. Spend the rest of the semester using this brief immersion in the back-alley world of Jumpy Swanson to fuel his imagination for one more crime novel.
He didn't know how Jumpy would take it, him making his exit. Or what quid pro quo Jumpy was expecting. C minus was already a mercy grade. And Guy wasn't about to fudge on his own academic values as payback for a half dozen adventures on the South Florida streets. There would come a day, Guy was pretty sure, when Jumpy would stomp out of his office disgusted with Guy's failure to give him the secret key to the kingdom Jumpy so passionately and unaccountably wanted. Jumpy Swanson, an author? Oh, get serious.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Miami Noir"
Copyright © 2019 Les Standiford.
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
PART I: EDGE OF THE COUNTRY,
James W. HALL Coconut Grove Ride Along,
Christine Kling County Line Dead Storage,
George Tucker North Miami Silence of the Stone Age,
Kevin Allen Perrine Sawyers,
PART II: WIND, WATER, AND GRIME,
Anthony Dale Gagliano Homestead Blown Away,
Tom Corcoran Card Sound One Man's Ceiling,
Paul Levine Florida Straits Solomon & Lord Drop Anchor,
David Beaty South Miami The Last of Lord Jitters,
PART III: VICES OF MIAMI,
John Dufresne Sunny Isles The Timing of Unfelt Smiles,
Vicki Hendricks Miami Beach Boozanne, Lemme Be,
Carolina Garcia-Aguilera Downtown The Recipe,
John Bond Miami River T-bird,
PART IV: CHASING THE CITY,
Preston Allen Miami-Dade Correctional Center Swap Out,
Lynne Barrett Upper Eastside The Noir Boudoir,
Barbara Parker Biscayne Bay Machete,
Jeffrey Wehr South Beach The Swimmers,
About the Contributors,