Long Island Noir is an anthology of short crime fiction, all set in Nassau and Suffolk counties of New York, edited by Kaylie Jones (available April 30, 2012).
The counties of Nassau and Suffolk (collectively known as Long Island) have patiently waited their turn in the Akashic Books Noir series since their neighbor to the west, Brooklyn, started the frenzy in 2004.
Long Island Noir has been worth the wait.
Edited by Kaylie Jones, this volume features original stories by writers—veteran and emerging—with personal and professional ties to Long Island: Jules Feiffer, Matthew McGevna, Nick Mamatas, Kaylie Jones, Qanta Ahmed, Charles Salzberg, Reed Farrel Coleman, Tim McLoughlin, Sarah Weinman, JZ Holden, Richie Narvaez, Sheila Kohler, Jane Ciabattari, Steven Wishnia, Kenneth Wishnia, Amani Scipio, and Tim Tomlinson.
Many of the tales will evoke memories of actual events for native Long Islanders. They did for me. Some are disguised, while others are clearly identified. Either way, the pages are locally authentic. Current and displaced Long Islanders will recognize the lingo and locations, while folks who’ve never visited will identify with the longing and lusting experienced by many of the characters.
The collection is as diverse as the population of Long Island (which, if it became a state, would be number one in density), providing insight from voices of the struggling poor to the troubled rich. Wealth (or lack of it) can be an equal-opportunity motivator in the shocking—but always entertaining—fiction known as noir.
In her introduction, Kaylie Jones says: “The most diehard fans of fiction may find a few of these stories a little gris. Not everyone here is literally down and out, though spiritually, they’ll give you a run for your money…They are all characters driven by some twisted notion of the American Dream, which they feel they must achieve at any cost. This is real-life noir.”
The stories are bundled under subheadings: Family Values, Hitting it Big, Love and Other Horrors, and American Dreamers.
Matthew McGevna nails the perceived reputation of some unfortunate Mastic Beach residents in “Gateway to the Stars,” involving a vehicle and traffic stop with a rude cop who assumes too much.
Nick Mamatas, in “Thy Shiny Car in the Night,” takes on Northport—a historic harbor village near the area I patrolled, and one near and dear to my heart for many reasons: “But then I started noticing the other Northport, the one day-trippers don’t see.” Jack Kerouac, a one-time resident and fixture in Gunther’s Tap Room, figures prominently in this tale (whose title comes from On The Road, as does the true crime “Satanic ritual” murder of Gary Lauwers in 1984 in Aztakea Woods, a crime that put Northport on the national map, much to the dismay of the residents.
“Home Invasion” by Kaylie Jones covers Wainscott (a seaside hamlet named by early settlers in East Hampton, a location memorialized in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations) with a protagonist who’s approaching her seventeenth birthday and being taught how to handle a gun by her World War II veteran father.
Garden City is the locale for “Anjali’s America,” in which the author, Qanta Ahmed, authentically portrays a Pakistani physician who helps fight to save the life of a Pakistani mother. The physician can’t help but notice that she and the patient share similar backgrounds, “…yet while I escaped in noisy defiance, she had acquiesced in silence.”
Charles Salzberg’s “A Starr Burns Bright,”features a skip tracer who owes a few favors to a disbarred “consultant.” The intriguing tale includes true crime details about the tragic life and death of 25-year-old Starr Faithfull, whose body washed ashore in Long Beach in 1931.
“Mastermind,” by Reed Farrel Coleman takes place in Selden. His razor-sharp dialogue and distinct descriptions had me chuckling over the accuracy of the jargon and slang one might hear among dirtbags. The main character (or more accurately, the main “loser”), J-Zig, “had a terminal case of yearning exacerbated by persistent bouts of resentment,” and “sold fake Ecstacy outside clubs and stolen car parts to pay the bills.”
A Bridgehampton native, Amani Scipio, writes about the 1950s in her hometown, when migrant workers journeyed from the south to work the farms of Long Island. In “Jabo’s,” the main character, an abused young girl, says, “Most of the people living down on Sag Harbor Turnpike, including our mother, brought along with them from the South the heavy baggage of their self-hatred and bitterness.”
Readers are also treated to an illustrated story about Southampton by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and illustrator, Jules Feiffer, called “Boob Noir.”
Jane Ciabattari’s setting is Sag Harbor in “Contents of House,” in which a woman seeks revenge on her ex-husband. JZ Holden turns up the heat in Sagaponack in “Summer Love,” when a divorced freelance writer engages in an erotic affair with her boss.
Sheila Kohler writes about the summer of Stella, a 60-year-old Amagansett resident who, in “Terror,” promises to take care of her only grandchildren but may not be up to the task.
In “Seven Eleven,” Wantagh is the location of Tim McLoughlin’s devastated gambling man, who dreams of the big hit, “every gambler’s white whale.”
Although Stony Brook is the setting of a spiraling situation for a 40-something English Literature professor, author Richie Narvaez also focuses on the trading post and reservation activities of the Shinnecock people in “Ending in Paumanok.”
Tim Tomlinson’s entry, “Snow Job,” occurs in Wading River, although the initial action occurs in the parking lot of the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. A bizarre habit of Bob Foote, a former Marine and retired lighting company employee, leads to tragic results.
Readers travel to Great Neck with Sarah Weinman’s “Past President,” as Pamela Rosenstein, a former NYPD homicide detective, is appointed president of a synagogue’s board—a good cover for finding out about the murder of the immediate past president.
In “Semiconscious,” Steven Wishnia visits Lake Ronkonkoma, where an Ecuadorian immigrant suffers a racially motivated assault at the hands of five youths. Steven’s brother Kenneth Wishnia’s story “Blood Drive” follows, and for good reason, as his tale in Port Jefferson Station picks up where “Semiconscious” ends.
As a retired 21-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department, I can certainly vouch for the authenticity of the points made, the themes explored, and the locations named in the stories. My advice is: Be sure to wear a seatbelt during your ride through Long Island Noir.
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