If you’re a fan of shadowy crime fiction, local authors, and well-written literature, then Kansas City Noir is a book you’ll definitely want to add to your reading list.
Just published in October as part of a noir series by Akashic Books and edited by Steve Paul, senior writer and arts editor for the Kansas City Star newspaper, Kansas City Noir is an anthology of 14 new stories by some of this area’s fiction masters.
Contributors include Daniel Woodrell, the seasoned author of Winter’s Bone and several other novels, Mitch Brian, a screenwriting and film studies professor at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and Nadia Pflaum, a former reporter for The Pitch newspaper who now works as an investigator for the Midwest Innocence Project.
With such an eclectic group of talent, the variety of stories and writing styles showcased in Kansas City Noir is exceptional. Even better, the collection does not have the regurgitated feel of “typical noir.” Instead, each piece, with its specific setting and distinctly twisted characters, leaves its own unique gritty impression on the reader.
Some stories, such as Grace Suh’s Mission Hills Confidential, have a very suburban vibe while other selections, like Nadia Pflaum’s Charlie Price’s Last Supper, have a more urban feeling. Each selection offers an edgy cast of characters, ranging from children of serial killers to police officers in turmoil, and as for subject matter, everything from missing persons to arson is explored.
Picking any standouts from Kansas City Noir would be hard because every tale is so deliciously disturbing and cynical. Nancy Pickard’s Lightbulb does a great job of examining remorse and retaliation. Linda Rodriguez and Catherine Browder add strong character conflict to the mix, and Andrés Rodríguez blows a smoky cloud of Kansas City history our way in Milton’s Tap Room.
Although Kansas City Noir barely tops 200 pages and is conveniently organized into three distinct sections (Heartland, Crazy Little Women and Smoke and Mirrors), it is not necessarily a fast read. Additionally, if you are the type of person who prefers light mysteries and tidy endings, don’t expect that in this compilation.
Kansas City Noir is more of a book that makes you ponder. After finishing a selection, you find yourself wondering, “What would I do in that situation,” or “Would I ever take things that far.” In fact, Kansas City Noir’s hook is that it intriguingly gets you to spend as much time thinking about stories as you do reading them.
If you’re interested in discovering some talented area authors, exploring the murky noir genre, and want to enjoy some well-crafted fiction, Kansas City Noir is an anthology worth checking out.