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[New blog post by novel/noir genre/short story instructor Cort McMeel. Warning: grab a toothpick, because once you’ve finished reading you’ll need to pick the grit from your teeth.]
Two years ago deep in the American Heartland a new kind of literary reading series was birthed. Much like a bleating, new-born calf in the stark cattle pens of Missouri, this St. Louis based event was steeped in blood:
“NOIR AT THE BAR”
The brainchild of publisher/writers Jedidiah Ayres and Scott Phillips, it is a reading series dedicated to the best American “Noir” fiction. I was asked to read there last spring. Among beers, bourbon, hecklers and vulgarity laced haikus, the rowdy literary circle of St. Louis demanded satisfaction: and they were not satiated unless they sensed the noir gods like David Goodis, Chester Himes and Jim Thompson were being honored. Unlike the revered whispers and hushed comments and politely covered coughs of a poetry reading, the writers prepared for the worst if they did not deliver dark themes and spare, hard-hitting prose. Black turtlenecks and worn copies of Rilke’s Collected Poems were nowhere in sight, being supplanted by shots of Jack Daniels and Kodiak tobacco tins—and much, as I said, much heckling.
I read from my upcoming novel CAGEFIGHTER, having to bob and weave like some of the fighters in my novel as hoots, jeers and even ice cubes were hurled…and this during excerpts the taunting crowd liked. One churlish writer reading after me flipped the audience the bird and invited all comers.
This was no vanilla reading, this was NOIR AT THE BAR.
Scott Phillips, author of noir classic, THE ICE HARVEST, and Jed Ayres published all the readers works in a crime anthology called, not surprisingly, NOIR AT THE BAR. The anthology has two volumes so far and includes such heavy hitters as Frank Bill, Pinckney Benedict, Duane Swierczynski, Denis Tafoya, and John Rector. Ayres attributes his inspiration to the dark, literary, crime fiction magazine MURDALAND. But NOIR AT THE BAR is a unique beast that has turned into kind of an underground movement. Tapping into that growing appetite for noir that made Cormac McCarthy’s novel NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN surge beyond the pen of genre crime fiction into the realm of American literary classic, Ayres and Phillips seem to have their finger on the pulse of something that is charged with a high wire energy that is attracting followers and t-shirt wearing adherents. And it is spreading. As new issues of the NOIR AT THE BAR anthology show up in conversations on Goods Reads and too many crime fiction blogs to name, the reading series itself, like Bonnie and Clyde on a city hopping crime spree, just popped up in L.A. this summer and now finds itself here in Cow Town. From John Fante to Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, Denver is a town that embraces its writers and sometimes gives birth to cult legends.
MCed by publisher (New Pulp Press) Jon Bassoff and organized by writers Cortright McMeel (SHORT/St. Martins Press), Mario Acevedo (WEREWOLF SMACKDOWN/Eos) and Ben Whitmer(PIKE/Switchblade Press).
The event takes place:
8pm Dec 13th (Thursday)
32 S. Broadway
For this first event we have featured one Lighthouse Writer, Dan Barela, among other distinguished crime writers from Colorado, including Chris Ransom, Steve Ransic Tem, & Warren Hammond. Barela will read from his novel in progress: DEFENDERS OF CHAOS.