Julie Smith, Editor


"New Orleans Noir (Akashic Noir)"

(Reviewed by Poornima Apte AUG 14, 2007)

New Orleans Noir

Until Katrina happened nearly two years ago, New Orleans brought to our minds Mardi Gras, sub-tropical, humid evenings, the famous French Quarter and above all--romance. Of course all that changed with the hurricane and the two names--New Orleans and Katrina are now inextricably linked together.

It is fitting then that Akashic’s New Orleans Noir, a set of short stories set in the Crescent City, is divided into two sections: Pre (Before the Levees Broke) and Post-K (Life in Atlantis) as editor Julie Smith categorizes them. Even before the storm hit, there was a good bit of longing for the New Orleans of yesteryear. These days, a character complains in James Nolan’s Open Mike: “most of the shops are Pakistani joints selling Mardi Gras masks made in China.” Even the crime has become watered down with the city streets being filled with “gutter punks, their mangy mutts, and older kids playing dress up.”

Noir fiction is a derivative of noir movies--stories in which the protagonist is often not the detective but the victim, accomplice or perpetrator. One of the Pre-K stories in the collection, Algiers by David Fulmer, is a classic example of a noir short story well told. The perpetrator, Valentin St. Cyr makes quick work of a nagging gambler in Algiers, one of the many wards  in the city.

Since this is New Orleans, you can never leave without some beautiful stories about race relations. Particularly memorable here are Two-Story Brick Houses by Patty Friedman in which a young Jewish girl desperately tries to measure up to her gentile classmates; and Loot by editor Julie Smith, in which a black couple is a victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Battling Priests of Corpus Christi by Jervey Tervalon is so direct in its portrayal of racism that it ends up being one of the most arresting stories in the collection.

Many of the writers who contributed to this collection continue to live in the city. As Julie Smith writes in her story, they continue to live in a state that has been cheated and dumped on by everybody: FEMA, the Corps of Engineers, the administration and the local officials. What’s needed, she writes of her characters, is vindication. This need for a “lift” also holds true for the locals who don’t want the city to be forgotten like the lost city of Atlantis. Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that a small percentage of the profits from New Orleans Noir will go toward the city’s public library.

Undoubtedly each reader of this wonderful collection will take away a favorite and picking one from many will be a tough choice. Christine Wiltz’s Night Taxi when a cabbie gets caught in an out-of-towner’s misdoings is particularly well done. My personal favorite was Greg Herren’s Annunciation Shotgun where an unsuspecting landlord becomes an accomplice to murder. The expert way in which the author has used Katrina to good effect in the story is fun and unexpected. It makes you take a second look at the gorgeous cover picture and wonder just how many secrets the storm laid bare and, equally important, how many more it didn’t.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 8 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Loot at publisher's site



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Rebecca Schwartz Mysteries:

Paul McDonald Series:

  • True Life Adventure (1985)
  • Huckleberry Friend (1987)

Skip Langdon series:

Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis:

Talba Wallis series:

Books in the Akashic Noir Series (Alphabetical Order):

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Julie SmithJulie Smith was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia. She attended the University of Mississippi, where she majored in journalism. After graduation, she bought a bus ticket to New Orleans and found a job writing features for the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. After one year, she moved to San Francisco, but unfortunately was unable to get a job for the San Fransico Chronicle in the newsroom. Instead she had to settle for beauty editor.

She quit to form Invisible Ink, a freelance writing firm, with two other woman, one of whom was fellow mystery writing Marcia Muller until 1982, when she published Death Turns a Trick. She struggled along until 1991 when the first Skip Langdon novel, New Orleans Mourning, won the the Edgar for best novel.

in 1996, she married and moved back to New Orleans. After inventing her new P.I. character, Talba Wallis, she took the state borad's Private Investigator course and received her P.I. licence in 2001.

Smith lives in New Orleans in a 1830s Creole town house with a ghost and serial murder story.

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