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D.C. Noir by George Pelecanos

D.C. Noir (2006)

by George Pelecanos (Editor)

Other authors: Robert Andrews (Contributor), Jim Beane (Contributor), Ruben Castaneda (Contributor), Richard Currey (Contributor), Jim Fusilli (Contributor)11 more, James Grady (Contributor), Jennifer Howard (Contributor), Lester Irby (Contributor), Kenji Jasper (Contributor), Norman Kelley (Contributor), Laura Lippman (Contributor), Jim Patton (Contributor), George Pelecanos (Contributor), Quintin Peterson (Contributor), David Slater (Contributor), Robert Wisdom (Contributor)

Series: Akashic Books Noir Series, D.C. Noir (1)

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1642114,268 (3.23)8
Bestselling mystery author George Pelecanos dazzles and terrifies with his first-ever anthology.



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Normally when someone puts an Akashic publication into my hands I settle down for a long joy, and I was expecting to do as much with this book. It's one of a long series of noir anthos that Akashic has been doing; I hope the others have been better.

Let's make no mistake: The best among the 16 stories in D.C. Noir are good. They're not the kind of good that makes you think the short story is breaking new ground, but they're excellent nonetheless. Jim Patton's "Capital of the World" is an extremely powerful piece highlighting the ongoing slave trade and the way that we in the developed countries both contribute to it and turn a blind eye to it. "Solomon's Alley", by Robert Andrews, is the best story in this genre that I've read for years: it concerns power games within a street market in DC, and the folly of overlooking the seemingly powerless. (It's also an unusual noir tale in that the baddies get their comeuppance.) Dammit, but I wish I'd written this!

The two female contributors (that there are just two would seem a weakness, right off) each contribute an excellent story that just happens not to be a noir story: Laura Lippman's "A.R.M. and the Woman" is a lovely black comedy and Jennifer Howard's "East of the Sun" is the kind of creepy yet thoughtful story someone like Ruth Rendell might have been proud of back in her early days. Jim Beane's "Jeanette" and David Slater's "Stiffed" are both written with beautiful tautness and are precisely what the noir short story should be. Jim Fuselli's "The Dupe", in which a numbskull tool of DC's neocons tries to break free and discovers how murderous his masters are, isn't noir but is remarkable for how terrifyingly believable it is . . . or perhaps what I mean to say is that it's terrifying how believable the story is.

All right, so there are seven good stories out of sixteen: not too bad a ratio. Leaving aside for a moment the ones that are just so-so (they're by no means bad, let me stress), the anthology as a whole is marred by the stories that are outright poor. Robert Wisdom's "The Light and the Dark" isn't just not a piece of noir, it's not even a short story: it's a moderately nicely written reminiscence of a bad childhood in DC; the only possible reason I can think of for its inclusion here is that Wisdom is (apparently) a tv actor . . . but that's not the kind of criterion Akashic normally applies when choosing whom to publish.

Quintin Peterson's "Cold As Ice" is bad in the clunkily amateurish way you expect from your students in writing classes: great promise, but this writer has yet to arrive. (You could probably say the same of Lester Irby's "God Don't Like Ugly", yet in this case everything somehow seems to pull together; if I were reviewing rather than just jotting down my thoughts, I might worry about this dichotomy.) Similarly, Ruben Castaneda's "Coyote Hunt" seems to have been included more on the grounds of the author's credentials -- he's a DC crime reporter -- than on the literary merits of the story.

I didn't count, but my guess is that in this 308-page anthology there's about 150 pages of good fiction. This does not encourage me to tackle further volumes in this long anthology series (although, since I have a couple of the others in the house, I'll probably do so). ( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pelecanos, GeorgeEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andrews, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beane, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Castaneda, RubenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Currey, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fusilli, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grady, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Howard, JenniferContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Irby, LesterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jasper, KenjiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelley, NormanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lippman, LauraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Patton, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pelecanos, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peterson, QuintinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slater, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wisdom, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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