Baltimore Noir

baltimore noir reviewAs part of Akashic Books’ line of crime anthologies based around specific areas, the Laura Lippman-edited BALTIMORE NOIR explores — and breaks the book down into —  three types of stories, with the first chunk involving people who spent their lives in Baltimore and are set in the past history of the city.

The first story, “Easy as A-B-C” by Lippman herself, deals with a contractor who is refurbishing the house he knew as a child and the woman he’s having an affair with who lives there. “Fat Chance” by Robert Ward is a standout story among this group, being the tale of a man who comes back to visit his mom in her nursing home, then runs into an old pal who wants to show him a good time, with unexpected consequences. “Pigtown Will Shine Tonight” is the only story of the bunch that deals with the old days of Baltimore – that of a rape of a local girl from the neighborhood.

The second section is geared more toward the here and now of Baltimore that we see on the likes of HOMICIDE and THE WIRE. The first tale is “Stainless Steel” by David Simon, one of the men behind THE WIRE (the greatest show on TV today; if you don’t watch, then shame on you). This actually feels like a little side story to the goings-on in that show, with even one of the plot points of the current season popping up. Another highlight in this section is “Home Movies” by Marcia Talley, a story that starts out as some tale of girl rebellion, then takes a turn you won’t expect. Talley’s tale wrung a special little chuckle from me for the reference to the greatest mayor Providence, R.I. ever had.

Joseph Wallace’s “Liminal” is a tale of revenge and porn. You really never know realize those girls are on those websites have families. “Ode to the O’s” by Charlie Stella is pretty much a tale of two mob guys killing time before their job, with one passing along the truth behind a story regarding the ’69 World Series.

BALTIMORE NOIR’s final third deals in stories that might not be based in reality. I’m not talking in the future, but stories that are just a little unrealistic. The two real highlights are the first two listed. “As Seen on TV” by Dan Fresperman is for the HOMICIDE fans out there, telling the story of a hitman from Slovenia who is flying over to carry out an assignment. The hitman is all excited, since he is a huge fan of the show and thinks it’s still being filmed and maybe they would buy a story idea from him. But Tim Cockey’s “The Haunting of Slink Ridgely” is probably the most fantastical of the bunch, since it deals with a ghost. Slink was the local milkman until his truck flipped over, killing him. We follow Slink as he watches the girl who feels responsible for the accident growing up.

On the whole, this book hits balls out of Camden Yards, with only two bloop singles that did nothing for me. If you’ve been eyeing Akashic’s NOIR series in the store and don’t know which to grab first, start in BALTIMORE. –Bruce Grossman

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Comment by Robert Ward
2007-06-22 13:22:51

Hey Bruce: Thanks for the kind words re; my story Fat Chance. If you dig that one check out my stories in Cocaine Chronicles (Chemistry) and in the geezer noir anthology Damned Near Dead(The Doomsters) I have a new story I just finished which I think is just as good as theothers but have’t a clue were to send it. If you have any ideas let me know, will ya?

Thanks again.

Robert Ward

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2008-05-30 07:06:16

[…] there ever were a town ready-made for the NOIR anthology series from Akashic Books, it’s Vegas. From the introduction of LAS VEGAS NOIR, editors Jarret Keene […]

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Pingback by Seattle Noir
2009-09-28 06:31:18

[…] BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS SERIES: • BALTIMORE NOIR edited by Laura Lippman • LAS VEGAS NOIR edited by Jarret Keene and Todd James Pierce • […]

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