Monday, February 02, 2015

Lone Star Noir

Lone Star Noir is another short story collection in the Akashic Books series that I first discovered back in 2010.  Each collection in this series contains fourteen or fifteen stories that fit comfortably in the genre of noir crime fiction.  And, because each of the stories is written by someone from (or very familiar with) the city or region in which all of the stories are set, the collections are long on setting and mood.  I have previously read and enjoyed Boston Noir, Mexico City Noir, Long Island Noir, Manila Noir, Prison Noir, and Belfast Noir.  And now, I can finally add one of Akashic’s Texas books to that list.

I’m a Texas native, and other than a decade during which I lived in Europe and North Africa, I have spent my whole life here.  So, speaking from personal observation, I can attest to the validity of editor Bobby Byrd’s statement in the book’s introduction that “Texas, in all its many places, bleeds noir fiction.”  Lone Star Noir is, in fact, only one of the Akashic books set in Texas.

As usual in every short story collection I have ever read, Lone Star Noir includes both winners and losers.  Some of the stories grab you in the first paragraph – and one or two others might see the reader perplexed even after the last page has been turned.  Surprisingly, at least to me, the most disturbing and haunting story in the entire collection was written by a woman.

Claudia Smith’s “Catgirl” is set on the beaches near the island city of Galveston, a place where Texas parents take their children for a day or two in the usually warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  For children, it is a small slice of paradise.  That however, is not the case for the four little girls who learn about the real world one night from someone they trusted to keep them safe.

Some of the stories are set in the state’s largest cities, others in what seems to be the middle of nowhere.  The San Antonio story, Ito Romo’s “Crank,” shows what can happen to a big city boy unprepared to visit the meanest of his city’s streets – but believes that he is.  And then as if to remind the reader that major crime can occur in the smallest of places, there is “Preacher’s Kid,” a story by Jessica Powers.  Also in the mix, is Joe Lansdale “Six-Finger Jack,” a fine story about a bounty killing that the killer soon has reason to regret.  This one is set in the heart of East Texas, a region Lansdale knows as well as any writer out there.

There are way more hits than misses in Lone Star Noir and, as usual, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for other books in a series that has become one of my favorites.

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