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Today, I got one of those great treats that writers love to receive. My author’s copies of Kansas City Noir arrived from Akashic Books. There is little in life to compare with ripping open a package to hold the actual physical book that’s been an image in so many people’s heads for so long. It’s a beautiful book as you can see from its perfect noir cover. It’s also remarkable for the stories it contains. I’m happy to be included in this collection of literary and mystery authors with excellent writers like Daniel Woodrell, Nancy Pickard, John Lutz, Matthew Eck, Catherine Browder, J. Malcolm Garcia, Kevin Prufer, Nadia Pflaum, Mitch Brian, Phong Nguyen, Grace Suh, Andrés Rodríguez, and Philip Stephens. Steve Paul, Hemingway scholar, award-winning poet, and long-time editor and writer for the Kansas City Star, was the editor who put together this fine collection of stories born and bred in Kansas City and strolling down the darker lanes of human experience.
For those of you not familiar with the Noir Series of anthologies set in various cities and locales (such as Indian Country) around the world that Akashic Books publishes, pay attention. You’re in for a treat. The brainchild of Johnny Temple and Tim McLoughlin, this series bring together accomplished writers of literary fiction and crime fiction—in some cases, of both—to spin stories that could be set only in that city or locale, stories that draw on local history, legend, and atmosphere and are set in a particular location or neighborhood. I love the tagline Akashic uses for these books—“reverse gentrification of the literary world.” That makes this post perfect for my Literary Mystery Novelists series.
As Steve Paul says in his introduction, “Kansas City is a crossroads. East meets West and North meets South here. Since its settlement in the first half of the nineteenth century, Kansas City has represented a place of opportunity, optimism, and ornery behavior.” After all, it was the powerful Mafia families of wide-open-until-the-late-fifties Kansas City that gave us the casinos of Las Vegas. Today, this first of the western cities routinely winds up on lists of high-murder locations, primarily due to the gang crime and violence in a small percentage of the metropolitan area.
Kansas City Noir contains stories set in city landmarks and in quiet neighborhoods to which no one pays attention. It contains cops, petty crooks, serial killers, gangbangers, and law-abiding citizens who step over the line. It contains beautiful images and language, as well as profanity and ugly crimes. Most of all, though, it contains fourteen strong, sharp stories with Kansas City fingerprints all over them.