This is the second in Akashic’s noir series of books that I’ve read – Boston Noir being the other. I’d have to say that this one is less adventurous. On the other hand, there are fewer stories that out and out irritated me. Mostly the stories collected here are moderately entertaining. Let’s put it this way: if the entertainment scale was 1-10, then the stories in Bronx Noir range from 5-6 and the stories in Boston Noir range from 4-7. Nothing in Bronx Noir will really disappoint you much, whereas Boston Noir serves up a few clunkers. Yet nothing in the Bronx collection reaches the standards of Dennis Lehane’s story (“Animal Rescue”), or the adventuresome nature of Dana Cameron’s “Femme Sole”. The Boston collection seems to “get’ noir better than Bronx tales.
I want to say that the Boston stories capture the sense of place better, but that is probably unfair. I’ve lived in Boston and the surrounding area for some 40 years. I’ve never lived in the Bronx.
On a sheer volume basis, the Bronx outslugs the Hub 19-11.
Though I guessed where each of these were going, both Terrence Cheng’s “Gold Mountain” and Joanne Dobson’s “Hey, Girlie” were entertaining stories. Rita Lakin’ story was just too contrived to entertain much, and the opening story written by Jerome Charyn was perhaps too short to get into.
Lawrence Block’s “Rude Awakening” is interesting in a Hitchcockian sort of way. As is Kevin Baker’s “The Cheers Like Waves” (Yankee Stadium). Baker’s story is one of the best in the collection.
Steven Torres’ “Early Fall” has just the sort of structure that makes a short story stand out from the others. “Lost and Found” (Rikers Island) by Thomas Bentil did nothing for me at all and may be the weakest story in the collection. This was followed by a story from Marlon James (“Look What Love Is Doing To Me” that is maybe even weaker still.
I would have said that Sandra Kitt’s “Home Sweet Home” (City Island) was the top story in the collection – I liked it quite a bit – up until the end, which was disappointingly unsatisfying. “A Visit To St. Nick’s” (Fordham Road) by Robert J. Hughes is a roundhouse punch of a story. Just duck.
At least Thomas Adcock’s “You Want I Should Whack Monkey Boy?” has the noir thing going for it (“I sent up slobs who fell in love with a dimple but couldn’t handle the fact that a whole girl came with it.”
There’s nothing bad enough here that you’re tempted to throw the book across the room. And though there’s not really too many stories that are wholly engaging, these are short stories after all, so one can always hope that the next one will really grab you. We can hope, can’t we?