A Parade magazine pick, included in "Books We Love" section
"What could be a more unlikely breeding ground for noir fiction than Montana, whose wide-open landscapes seem the polar opposite of the mean streets of Los Angeles? Yet certain noir standbys prove both malleable and fertile in these 14 new stories...If Montana has a dark side, is anywhere safe from noir?"
"Terrific...Montana Noir is one of the high points in Akashic's long-running and justly celebrated Noir series...Editors Grady and Graff's selections...are all sharply attuned to their settings and to the ways those varying landscapes reflect the darkness within the people who walk the streets or drive the country roads."
"14 stories set in Big Sky Country. Much like a travel map that divides Montana into regions, this volume is partitioned into four sections that reflect the geography of the state: Copper Power, The Hi-Line, Custer Country, and Rivers Run...Montana, and others live in the state; all the authors have strong emotional ties to the area's particular lifestyle. The editors tout this book as the first-ever anthology of Montana-set noir short stories. Fans of the genre and regional fiction will be intrigued."
Library Journal XPress Reviews
"There's no shortage of misbehavior in this book. But there's also no shortage of excellent writing by some of Montana's finest authors. The book included work by Thomas McGuane, Jamie Ford, Walter Kirn, Debra Magpie earling and eight others. Thwey're all Montanans, every one, and their subjects are as varied and unique as the state itself."
"Even though Montana's beauty makes the idea of dark alleys and neon lights seem incongruous, noir also represents struggle, and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons...There can never be a happy ending in noir but there can be the possibility of redemption. It's the little guy against big forces and as Montanans, we can all appreciate that fight."
Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct location within the geographic area of the book. Grady and Graff, both Montana natives, masterfully curate this collection of hard-edged Western tales.
Brand-new stories by: David Abrams, Caroline Patterson, Eric Heidle, Thomas McGuane, Janet Skeslien Charles, Sidner Larson, Yvonne Seng, James Grady, Jamie Ford, Carrie La Seur, Walter Kirn, Gwen Florio, Debra Magpie Earling, and Keir Graff.
From the introduction by James Grady and Keir Graff:
This anthology is a road trip through the dreams and disasters of the true Montana, stories written by authors with Montana in their blood, tales that circle you around the state through its cities and small towns. These are twenty-first century authors writing timeless sagas of choice, crime, and consequences...You'll meet students and strippers, cops and cons, druggies and dreamers, cold-eyed killers and caught-in-their-gunsights screwed-up souls.
But mostly, through all our fiction here, you'll meet quiet heroes and see the noir side of life that makes our Montana as real as it is mythic. No doubt the state's beauty will still make the very idea of Montana Noir seem incongruous to some. Noir is black-and-white. Streets and alleys. Flashing neon lighting a rain-streaked window. But while noir was definitely an urban invention, it knows no boundaries. Noir is struggle. It's doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. It's being trapped. It's hubris. It's being defeated yet going on. Sometimes it's being defeated and not going on.
That's life everywhere. This is our Montana.
About the Author
Keir Graff was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. He is the author of four novels for adults (most recently The Price of Liberty), and two novels for middle-graders. Graff now lives in Chicago, where he is the executive editor of Booklist.
Read an Excerpt
Noir's Last Best Place
When people learn we're from Montana, we can almost predict what they'll say: I've heard it's so beautiful. Why would you ever want to leave?
One stock reply, always good for a laugh at a party, is, You can't eat the scenery. Which also saves us from having to admit that, as young men, neither of us could wait to get out.
With some very notable exceptions, most of the Montana writers we've known came there from some other place. Those of us who were born there often leave. We leave for the same reasons people leave their hometowns all over the world — to see what else is out there. For both of us, leaving was the very thing that made it possible to have careers in writing and publishing.
Of course, having left, all we ever do is think about going back. Editing this anthology has been a wonderful way to return to our home state, with everything that's good and bad about it.
Montana is indeed beautiful. It can be as picture-postcard perfect as you imagine, with the grandeur of legendary mountains rising in the famously clean and blue Big Sky, rivers crashing through piney canyons, and prairies rolling like a golden sea.
It's the kind of beauty that makes us think, when we're visiting, like every other tourist: I should live here.
But living in beautiful places can be just as hard as living in the most soul-crushing cities.
Nobody — well, almost nobody — lives in Glacier Park. Or the Bob Marshall Wilderness. They live in the towns nearby, trying to figure out how to afford all that beauty. Even those who live to paddle, fish, and hunt spend far more hours at work, whether their incomes derive from seasonal trade, state jobs, the Internet-gig economy, or what remains of the extractive industries. Some of them are noble cowboys who'd give you the shirt off their backs. Others work and worry, scheme and dream, drink and take drugs, and sometimes lie, cheat, and steal. Or kill.
Just like everywhere else.
For those of us who have its soil in our blood and its sky in our soul, Montana is more than its clichés. For us, Montana is as real as our true loves, and under its sky are human sagas in a brutal noir world where easy choices are hard to come by.
This has long been reflected in the fiction of Montana, which runs like a river through the culture of America.
Dashiell Hammett, the global dark knight of noir, worked as a Pinkerton detective in Butte during the copper king and union wars that rocked the mining city with the "richest hill on earth," and fictionalized it as "Personville" for his revolutionary first novel, Red Harvest.
Feisty Montana newspaper reporter Dorothy Johnson channeled noir in her fiction to produce award-winning novels and stories whose Hollywood adaptations brought realism to the same screens that shaped our cowboys-and-Indians clichés: The Hanging Tree, A Man Called Horse, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
The great A.B. Guthrie, a Pulitzer Prize winner and an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter for Shane, captured Montana's small-town, cowboy-era culture with a perfect noir lens in his classic novel These Thousand Hills.
Starting in the early 1970s, the University of Montana in Missoula incubated a crew of noir prose-slingers, including internationally acclaimed authors James Lee Burke, a quiet and kind man who gave the world the introspective private eye Dave Robicheaux, and legendary wild man James Crumley, whose The Last Good Kiss boasts as fine an opening page for a novel as you'll find. That landmark novel drew on the life and works of Crumley and Burke's UM colleague, the wonderful poet Richard Hugo, for its title and central character. Hugo also wrote a crime novel, Death and the Good Life, and his poetry protégé, James Welch, who grew up in the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre Indian tribes' cultures of his parents, let noir swirl through novels like Winter in the Blood and The Indian Lawyer.
Norman Maclean, perhaps Montana's most acclaimed twentieth-century author, used fine nonfiction prose to reveal the beauty and tragedy of Montana's noir world with two unforgettable works: Young Men and Fire and A River Runs Through It.
Now you hold this, the first-ever anthology of Montana noir short stories.
This anthology is a road trip through the dreams and disasters of the true Montana, stories written by authors with Montana in their blood, tales that circle you around the state through its cities and small towns. These are twenty-first-century authors writing timeless sagas of choice, crime, and consequences. Besides traveling back in time to the birth of Montana's modern era in 1972, your trip will include stops on the state's concrete and forest floors. You'll meet students and strippers, cops and cons, druggies and dreamers, cold-eyed killers and caught-in-their-gunsights screwed-up souls.
But mostly, through all our fiction here, you'll meet quiet heroes and see the noir side of life that makes our Montana as real as it is mythic.
No doubt the state's beauty will still make the very idea of Montana Noir seem incongruous to some. Noir is black-and-white. Streets and alleys. Flashing neon lighting a rain-streaked window. But while noir was definitely an urban invention, it knows no boundaries. Noir is struggle. It's doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. It's being trapped. It's hubris. It's being defeated yet going on. Sometimes it's being defeated and not going on.
That's life everywhere.
This is our Montana.
James Grady & Keir Graff June 2017(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Montana Noir"
Copyright © 2017 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 ContentsTable of Contents
Part I: Copper Power
“Red, White, and Butte” by David Abrams (Butte)
“Constellations” by Caroline Patterson (Helena)
“Ace in the Hole” by Eric Heidle (Great Falls)
Part II: The Hi-Line
“Fireweed” by Janet Skeslien Charles (Farm Country)
“Dark Monument” by Sidner Larson (Havre)
“All the Damn Stars in the Sky” by Yvonne Seng (Glasgow)
“The Road You Take” by James Grady (Shelby)
Part III: Custer Country
“The Dive” by Jamie Ford (Glendive)
“Bad Blood” by Carrie La Seur (Downtown Billings)
“Oasis” by Walter Kirn (Billings Heights)
“Motherlode” by Thomas McGuane (Jordan)
Part IV: Rivers Run
“Trailer Trash” by Gwen Florio (Missoula)
“Custer’s Last Stand” by Debra Magpie Earling (Polson)
“Red Skies of Montana” by Keir Graff (Lolo)