"Long Island Noir" Book Review
Edited by Kaylie Jones
2012, 283 pages, Fiction
Released on April 30th, 2012
Whenever the folks at Akashic Books release a new book as part of their noir series, quality is guaranteed. The real question is just how good the latest tome is. When it comes to Long Island Noir, the answer can be summoned up with one word: superb. Edited by Kaylie Jones, Long Island Noir is grainy, fast, cold and a little dirty. It also accomplishes two things: it repeatedly puts the reader at the mercy of the emotionally gritty stories in its pages and almost every corner of Long Island is exposed.
The first part of the book is titled "Family Values" and explores the darkest side of familial relations. Editor Kaylie Jones' contribution, Home Invasion, slowly builds to a bloody finale and contains enough uncomfortable silences and tension to satisfy anyone. The best of the four tales here is Nick Mamatas' Thy Shiny Car in the Night, a mafia-tinged narrative about a son that has to come between his father and uncle. It reads like a collaboration between Jack Kerouac and Raymond Chandler and ends with a line that will stick with readers long after they're done reading: "In the West, the sun peeks out distantly on the horizon, a great white pearl." The section closes with Qanta Ahmed's Anjali's America, another outstanding tale that offers a look at love, abandonment and revenge with a cultural twist that brings the darkest noir into the solemn silence of a woman whose life has become an ugly space of mechanical motherhood and infidelity.
"Hitting It Big", the second section of the book, offers four stories that have more of a classic noir feel to them. Charles Salzberg's A Starr Burns Bright tells the story of a man on a mission to exchange some money for a diary that could make a lot of money if it falls in the right hands. This one is rich in history and packs a wonderful sense of inevitability. The second highlight is Reed Farrel Coleman's Mastermind, a sad tale of a man who works hard to overcome his shortcomings and ends up in a situation that's way worse than anything he could have imagined. It's also one of those stories that makes you feel something for the character despite his actions.
The collection keeps rolling with "Love and Other Horrors". Just like the first section of the book, this one shows that the scariest monsters can be hiding right in front of us and sometimes even share the same roof. The first highlight is Sheila Kohler's Terror, a story that begins in the safe realm of a grandmother at home taking care of her grandkids and goes on to define fear and desperation. The second tale worth emphasizing is Jane Ciabattari's Contents of House, which is a very enjoyable amalgamation of shame, broken love, sex and revenge.
The last section, "American Dreamers", tackles immigration and Long Island's cultural diversity without ever ceasing to be fantastic noir. Amani Scipio's Jabo's, a story in which a girl tells her view of the world while recounting the steps that brought her mom to her current state, packs two generations of sadness, poverty, hard nights and abuse into ten pages. Last but not least, Tim Tomlinson's Snow Job possesses a kind of sad/dangerous/frantic/smart/funny mixture that is very hard to find and impossible not to like. As a bonus, this tale has a twist that ensures a chuckle and will make readers keep on thinking about the book after they've turned the last page.
The Akashic Noir series has become a go-to place for outstanding gritty, dark tales and Long Island Noir is a great addition to the collection. From the pervasive cold and dirty snow to the broken homes, shooting and backstabbing that fill the book to the list of first-rate authors, this book deserves to be read. The only negative thing about acquiring a copy is the effect it will have on your wallet when you want to buy the rest of series.