Book review

New Haven Noir from Akashic Books Out Today!

Happy publication day to Akashic Books, editor Amy Bloom, and all the fantastic writers who contributed to New Haven Noir! This is a solid collection of diverse noir stories, one that I highly recommend if you’re into noir, crime fiction in general, and/or New Haven.

These are brand-new stories by Michael Cunningham, Roxana Robinson, Stephen L. Carter, John Crowley, Amy Bloom, Alice Mattison, Chris Knopf, Jonathan Stone, Sarah Pemberton Strong, Karen E. Olson, Jessica Speart, Chandra Prasad, David Rich, Lisa D. Gray, and Hirsh Sawhney.

New Haven Noir, Akashic Books (WildmooBooks.com)

When I attended BookExpo back in late May/early June, New Haven Noir was at the top of my list of books to keep an eye out for. I managed to get my hands on the last copy Akashic Books had available the day I stopped in their booth. (Apologies to anyone I may have elbowed to make my way into their crowded booth.)

I’ve talked about New Haven Noir on the Book Cougars podcast (I believe it was on Episode 20) and read the opening scene from Jessica Speart’s, “Second Act,” which takes place at Food Terminal Plaza.

New Haven Noir Map, Akashic Books (WildmooBooks.com)

A helpful map shows “where the bodies are.”

When (or, rather, if) people think of New Haven outside of Connecticut, it’s often because of Yale University. In the 3.5 years I’ve lived in the area, I’ve found that people either love or dislike both New Haven and/or Yale. Hirsh Sawhney’s narrator in, “A Woe for Every Season,” refers to Yale as Stale University. He goes on,

“You see, we are all really sick of our tax-exempt imperialist overlords here in New Haven. But when they get wind of our words, what do they say? They say, Quiet down, plebs of New Haven; the gold in our East India Company coffers is what keeps you from becoming Bridgport. And if you’re batting above double digits in the IQ department, you’ll have to admit that the Stale folks have a point” (55-56).

I literally LOL’d at that Bridgeport slam. Looks like I’ve lived in Connecticut long enough to get some of the inside jokes.

Other stories take their shots at New Haven’s seedy side and some inform about the city’s history of racial discrimination:

  • “The path along the harbor–what the city of New Haven calls Long Wharf Park–is just an open trash can” (76). From David Rich.
  • “He asked an older kid at church who told him that some of the stores down by Yale did not serve Negroes” (156) and “Or about how the Negroes of New Haven tried to build a college of their own a hundred years ago but the white folks wouldn’t let them” (159). From Stephen L. Carter.
  • “The police consistently inform these people that citizens are entitled to look as if they’re up to no good (as long as they merely look that way), and that if there were laws against creepiness, a considerable portion of the New Haven population would be in jail already” (265-66). From Michael Cunningham.

And a few stories address issues of gender discrimination and the struggles that women face, but those are general (life/job/academic) experiences rather than specific to New Haven.

For example, the narrator of Amy Bloom’s story, “I’ve Never Been to Paris,” remarks after spending time with another woman, “We ate three scones and we had two lattes and I thought, there is nothing like a good talk with a good woman to make you not miss men so much” (89). One of my girl friends recently said something almost verbatim to me.

New Haven Noir table of contents, Akashic Books (WildmooBooks.com)

A nice touch: The Table of Contents lists the location of each story.

I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection. There may have been one or two that stylistically weren’t my cup of tea, but they were still good reads. Some of them will stick with me for a long time to come.

The launch event for New Haven Noir is tonight (8/3/17) at the Institute Library in New Haven, CT.  Below are upcoming events as listed on Akashic Books’ website (Please visit the publisher’s site for updates as more events may be added, and to double check for any date/time changes):


 

Title: New Haven Noir
Editor: Amy Bloom
Publisher: Akashic Books
Release Date: August 3, 2017

Bottom line: A strong and highly enjoyable collection of diverse noir stories that truly give the reader a vibe for the City of New Haven. Get it for yourself or for the Yalie in your life.

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