Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Palm Springs Noir

 Edited by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Akashic     2021

293 pages     Noir

I was at loose ends on Monday after a busy holiday prep weekend. I picked up Palm Springs Noir, knowing  that I would be entertained and enlightened about a city that I had been to several years ago. What I remembered best about the Palm Springs experience were the fields of wind turbines in the valley. Those wind turbines show up frequently in the short stories in the book, but apparently I didn’t have the same kind of Palm Springs experience that the characters in these stories had. I may have to go back.

In her introduction, DeMarco-Barret defines noir thus: “In noir, the main characters might want their lives to improve and may have high aspirations and goals, but they keep making bad choices and things go from bad to worse.” She goes on: “In noir, characters follow the highway to doom and destruction. They are haunted by the past, and the line between black and white, right and wrong, dissolves like sugar in water. The hero rationalizes why it’s ok to do whatever dark thing they are about to do.”

DeMarco-Barrett used that definition as she selected the stories to go into this volume of noir. The stories are just as sleezy as you might expect in a book of noir fiction, but the reader also experiences a lot of suspense and darkness. There are references to famous stars that have lived in the area and includes the music of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Through the stories we visit the places the tourist knows, like the golf courses and the pools, the mountains and the desert. My favorite place, Joshua Tree, however is spoiled by homicide, and a beautiful pool by a drowning. DeMarco-Barrett’s story concerns a brother who drowned in a mother’s pool. Could the sister have caused the drowning?

There are fourteen stories by several well-known Southern California authors. They are pure naughtiness happening in one of America’s most beautiful places. As steamy as the air. A great review in the NY Journal of Books.

I have written extensively over the years about the Akashic series of more than 100 noir books in settings all over the world. You might also like to read my description of noir and neo-noir literature. You can find it here. Stay tuned for the February arrival of Paris Noir: The Suburbs, which I will review the next time I have a day of loose ends.

No comments: