Long Island Noir, by my count the fiftieth offering in the Akashic Noir Series, is a nice collection of seventeen short stories devoted to Long Island’s dark side. Noir fiction, by definition, focuses on the darkness hidden within every human being and what happens when that dark side is allowed to express itself. These stories, consequently, are generally about losers and their victims. These are not “feel good” stories with happy endings and, with an exception or two, there are no nice guys to be found here unless you consider a few of the victims to fit into that category – but, even of that bunch, only a few will qualify. You have to love this stuff.
As editor Kaylie Jones puts it in the book’s introduction, “They are all characters driven by some twisted notion of the American Dream, which they feel they must achieve at any cost. This is real-life noir. These people are our neighbors.” Most would hope this to be a bit of an exaggeration, but if not our neighbors, people like these are probably nearer than most of us care to admit.
Short story collections, if they include enough stories or writers, tend to be a bit uneven, and this one is no exception. Included in this one are both excellent stories and a couple of dry clunkers that read more as obvious, almost characterless, indictments of spousal abuse and racism. There is even a graphic short story (my first experience with one of those) called “Boob Noir” that turns out to be one of the darkest and most disturbing tales of the bunch.
|Editor Kaylie Jones|
Several of the stories are particularly memorable and fun to read, including the book’s opener, a story by Matthew McGevna called “Gateway to the Stars” in which a young man is kept from rescuing his younger brother from a sexual predator by a local cop who refuses him entrance to a wealthy neighborhood to search for the boy. “Home Invasion,” written by Kaylie Jones, is the striking story of a 16-year-old girl who unexpectedly turns the table on a friend of her father’s who has been taking advantage of her. My favorite, though, is Reed Farrel Coleman’s “Mastermind,” a story about a petty criminal who has finally planned the perfect score, one that will net him enough to live well on for a long time, only to have it all go wrong in a way that would have made the great Alfred Hitchcock smile.
Readers of Long Island Noir are likely to have their image of Long Island forever changed – especially those who have not seen it with their own eyes. As these stories remind us, not everyone on Long Island lives in the Hamptons. It’s dark out there; watch yourself.