Palm Springs Noir
By: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett - Akashic Books, $16.95
Description: Palm Springs now joins Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley in Californias Noir Series arena.
Verdict: Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct location within the geographic area of the book.
Palm Springs Noir features brand-new stories by: T. Jefferson Parker, Janet Fitch, Eric Beetner, Kelly Shire, Tod Goldberg, Michael Craft, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Rob Roberge, J.D. Horn, Eduardo Santiago, Rob Bowman, Chris J. Bahnsen, Ken Layne, and Alex Espinoza.
As I am sure we all know by now, the best noir writers make us feel the heat of the sun, the touch of a lover. Setting can be gritty but can also be sublime, no longer relegated to urban locales and seedy hotel rooms but also mansions and swimming pools.
Hence, Palm Springs, which may seem like an odd setting for a collection of dark short stories - it is so sunny and bright here. The quality of light is unlike anywhere else, and with an average of three hundred sunny days a year, what could go wrong?
The stories in this collection come on like the wicked dust storms common to the area. More than half are by writers who live here full-time; all have homes in Southern California.
They know this place in ways visitors and outsiders never will. These are not stories you will read in the glossy coffee-table books that feature Palm Springss good life.
There is indeed a lush life to be found here, but for the characters in these stories, it is often just out of reach.
Stand out stories here for me included the A Cold Girl by Kathy Shire, the story of Jessie, a seventeen year-old girl, who in the dark saw herself as a Stevie Nicks-esque ambiance, but who in the cold light of day has wants, needs, and a desire to learn more, before any thought of a return to where she came from is even considered.
Another good read is Tod Goldbergs A Career Spent Disappointing People, where it is a sweltering July day, and just three hours out of hospital (due to a foot issue), Shanes day is not getting any better as his car has now broken down.
Technically on the road out of Palm Springs, heading toward Arizona, his relocation plans would have to be placed on hold for the time being.
A story ready made for the noir genre, and one you can see playing out on the small screen as you read the pages, this tale involves motels, karaoke, cheap alcohol, cheap women, guns, a man called Gold Mike and the threaded theme of ... clowns!
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett DeMarco-Barrett spends time in the desert whenever she can. She hosts Writers on Writing on KUCI-FM, and her book Pen on Fire was a Los Angeles Times best seller. Her short story Crazy for You was published in USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series.
She has also published in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Inlandia, Shotgun Honey, Crossing Borders, and The Literary Hatchet.
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