This post is part of a year-long series about short stories. Read about my “Year of the Short Story” HERE.
Richmond Noir – edited by Andrew Blosson, Brian Castleberry and Tom De Haven (2010) – This is a wonderful collection of short stories done in the noir style. As Tom Robbins (author of among others “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”. Robbins grew up in Richmond and has a story in the collection) says in his foreword, when he thinks of Richmond he thinks of alleys. “…my memories of Richmond’s noir. Which is to say, colored with seamy urban romance and suave big-city vice, the twin elements most responsible for the seductive throb at the murky heart of noir“.
The stories feature well-known locations in Richmond, Hollywood Cemetery, Belle Isle, Church Hill, Shockoe Slip, Jackson Ward, the West End and more. They are then broken down into four categories – Nevermore, Numbers, Neurosis and Nonsuch. While a relatively small city (the greater Richmond population is around a million souls), the authors realize that it offers a rich lode of concepts, history, and people for their creative exercise. State Capitol, the heart of rebellions of both white and black residents, with plenty of anger, angst and the kind of political chicanery that would do Chinatown proud, this is Richmond.
The stories (with the part of the city they’re set in):
- The Rose Red Vial (Museum District) Pir Rothenberg
- Homework (East End) David L. Robbins
- Gaia (Providence Park) Mina Beverly
- Texas Beach (Texas Beach) Dennis Danvers
- The Battle of Belle Isle (Belle Isle) Clay McLeod Chapman
- A Late-Night Fishing Trip (Oregon Hill) X.C. Atkins
- The Heart is a Strange Muscle (Church Hill) Laura Browder
- The Fall Lines (Shockoe Slip) Dean King
- Playing with DaBlonde (Manchester)Tom De Haven
- Midnight at the Oasis (Jefferson Davis Highway) Anne Thomas Soffee
- Untitled (Jackson Ward) Meagan J. Saunders
- Marco’s Broken English (West End) Conrad Ashley Persons
- The Thirteenth Floor (Monroe Park) Howard Owen
- Mr. Not (Devil’s Half Acre) Hermine Pinson
- The Apprentice (Hollywood Cemetery) Clint McCown
All of the stories are amazing. A couple really stood out for me:
- Untitled by Meagan Saunders – I think any creative person would understand the struggle to push past our demons and create.
- The Thirteenth Floor by Howard Owen – A classic noir mystery set in a classic building in Richmond.
- The Red Vial by Pir Rothenberg – Had to have a Poe connection somewhere and I can’t resist the story.
- The Battle of Belle Isle – Clay McLeod Chapman – The James River figures in several of the stories. This one is a tale of love and dedication in the midst of loss.
Honestly, there is not a weak story in the bunch. Richmond deserves no less. There are collections for a wide range of other cities including both Pittsburgh and Buffalo, so I’ll have to track those down.
If you’ve never been to Richmond this book could serve as an interesting introduction to the city. If you know RVA you’ll love the local feel. And if you’re a fan of noir, this is a great addition to your library.