Alabama Noir is another release in the Akashic Noir series of anthologies set in cities, states, and countries of the world. Each edition calls upon a local author to curate and edit the book for their locale. Don Noble has lived in Alabama for fifty years and in addition to writing books, he has a weekly radio show about books that features his own reviews. Could they have chosen a better editor? I doubt it.
Noble organized this collection of short stories around the titles of songs by Tennesee’s native son Hank Williams. They are Cold, Cold Heart, Your Cheating Heart, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and The Angel of Death. The arrangement makes sense and the selection of stories is excellent. Standing out from the rest are “What Brings You Back Home” by Michelle Richmond and “Her Job” by Tom Franklin. The first is a story of revenge, cold and professional revenge but tooted in fury. The second is a heartbreaking story of compassion and mercy. The shock and surprise of “Exhaustion” by Anita Miller Garner in the first story was a wake-up to the reader that this was going to be true noir where story wins the day.
Alabama Noir is an excellent representative of the Akashic Noir series and ranks among the best. Some editors try to expand the meaning and expression of noir by including poetry or plays, some try to stretch it to include more experimental fiction.
I understand the impulse, the desire to remove the genre fiction label, to make it “LITERATURE.” I am more democratic than that and think great literature is defined by the quality of the prose, story, and themes and genre fiction can be fine literature. I remember my book group resisted my suggestion of “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy Sayers because it was just genre fiction. But when we read it (I was persuasive.) they not only loved it, it touched off a great discussion and the realization that by avoiding genre fiction, they are missing out. Readers of Alabama Noir won’t miss out because Don Noble resisted that impulse to show off and focused on bringing great stories.
I received an e-galley of Alabama Noir from the publisher through Edelweiss.