Edited by Neal Pollack.
Akashic Books, $14.95.
What do a nursing-home receptionist, a gay fashionista and a business consultant have in common? They all end up killing someone in Chicago Noir, the latest in Akashic's series of city-based noir collections. The stories that editor Pollack has chosen to represent his former hometown vary wildly in voices, approaches and style within the parameters of the noir genre.
Arranged by the street intersections where the crimes are committed, the book could be split into two parts: South Side and North Side. The first half deals mainly with cops, gangs and drugs, while the second half features fewer clichéd noir tropes. On the more typical end of the spectrum, Jeffrey Renard Allen's cryptic "The Near Remote" combines metaphor and mystery, while the twist in Luciano Guerriero's tale of deceit—where a recently released ex-con sets his sights on an undercover cop—sends a chill down one's spine. "The Gospel of Moral Ends" by Bayo Ojikutu reads like a darker version of Langston Hughes, and in "The Great Billik," Claire Zulkey pays homage to Poe, one of literature noir's originators.
Yet the collection's most interesting moments occur when the writer's attempts at genre are less overt. In Kevin Guilfoile's "Zero Zero Day," a police-scanner hobbyist listens to the Chicago PD's radio signals and hopes to witness the first 24-hour period with no murders and no shootings since 1999. But during his time in front of the radio, he almost becomes a victim himself. Amy Sayre-Roberts's "Death Mouth" uses clever language in a story about a young man who comes out of the closet and learns the rules of dating the hard way.
While typical noir tales feature hard-boiled cops taking on tough-to-crack cases, these new interpretations, juxtaposed with classic structures, bring together the different faces of Chicago: North and South, old and new.—Amber Drea