Reviews for Mississippi Noir, by Dominiqua Dickey, RaShell R. Smith-Spears, Michael Kardos, Mary Miller, Lee Durkee, Megan Abbott, Jimmy Cajoleas, William Boyle, Tom Franklin, Andrew Paul, Robert Busby, Ace Atkins, John M. Floyd, Chris Offutt, Jamie Paige, Jack Pendarvis, Michael Farris Smith
I got this book as a giveaway from Akashic Books (thanks ya'll!)
I hadn't read any of the other books in their noir series but was attracted to this one because it was written by writers affiliated with my home state and about places in said state. I wasn't sure what to expect but this book started off with a bang and did not let up! It was a great mix of short stories - some stories left you wanting more and some left you with more questions than answers. All of the stories left you wondering how crazy the world is and could be. Definitely recommend to lovers of short stories, fiction, historical fiction, or anyone else who loves going "did that really just happen?".
Mississippi Noir is the latest collection of dark crime stories in the long running series of similar titles from Akashic Books, and it's another good one. The first hint of what to expect from the book's sixteen stories comes in the blunt opening paragraph of Tom Franklin's two-page introduction:
"Welcome to Mississippi, where a recent poll shows we have the most corrupt government in the United States. Where we are first in infant mortality, childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, teenage pregnancy, adult obesity, adult diabetes. We also have the highest poverty rate in the country.
And, curiously, the highest concentration of kick-ass writers in the country, too,"
And judging strictly from the number of writers who make their homes in Oxford, the claim about "kick-ass writers" might very well be true. (But sadly, so are the other ones.) This Mississippi-based story collection features the work of a few familiar names, such as Ace Atkins, writers newly-come to the genre, and even a couple of writers being published for the first time. As is always the case with the Akashic books in the series, the sixteen stories are divided into four thematic sections with tiles that give a clue to the type of story housed there: "Conquest & Revenge," "Wayward Youth," Bloodlines," and "Skipping Town."
As it turns out, my three favorite stories come from three different sections of the book: "Lord of Madison County," by the first-time-published Jimmy Cajoleas, "Oxford Girl" by the already well-known Megan Abbott, and "Pit Stop", by veteran writer John M. Floyd.
"Lord of Madison County" tells of a seasoned teenaged drug dealer who has stumbled upon the best way imaginable to hide the truth about himself - he pretends to be a Jesus freak interested only in spreading the word of God among his peers. When, predictably, the young man learns that, not only is he nearly as smart as he thinks he is, but that bigger, badder criminals are all around him, things do not go particularly well for him and his preacher's-daughter girlfriend.
"Oxford Girl" takes the rather unusual approach of adopting its plot from an English ballad dating back to the 1820s. The old ballad tells the story of a young woman who is brutally murdered by the man she believes she is going to marry. The short story cleverly cites verses from one version of the old song as the story about two University of Mississippi students unfolds along eerily similar lines. There is one key difference, however, that makes the story especially effective - unlike the song, which is narrated by the killer, the story's narrator is the murdered girl.
And then there's "Pit Stop," a story that likely would have warmed the heart of Alfred Hitchcock. In this one, a young woman is telling her little girl a story from her past, the one in which she encountered the infamous "Night Stalker" who killed several women along Mississippi's Highway 25. An abundance of false leads and misdirection - along with plenty of clues that point to the Stalker's true identity - make this one a fun and satisfying read.
Bottom Line: Mississippi Noir meets the high standard set by it predecessors in this Akashic Books series.
I am a long-time fan of the Noir series from Akashic Books and just finished their most recent release Mississippi Noir that came out earlier this month. Mississippi as a state is a fount of great literature, including some of my favorites like Eudora Welty and William Faulkner. It is also a state rich in the mystery genre with settings perfect for suspense. It’s not wonder, then, that this anthology is a standout in an excellent series.
Tom Franklin organized the stories in four sections, the first has stories of conquest and revenge. The second features wayward youth, the third is called Bloodlines with some of the most painful stories and the last section is called Skipping Town. The stories are often grim, tragic and heartbreaking, but not always. The last story, “Cheap Suitcase and a New Town” is even kind of hopeful…kind of.
Mississippi is a powerful presence in most of the stories, not just the landscape, but the grinding poverty and the pernicious racism are a backdrop to many of the stories.
I disliked one story, “Oxford Girl” by Megan Abbott. I would like to forget that story. It was, however, well-written. Like all the other stories, it was emotional powerful and wrenching. I disliked it on a deep level, in part because it reflects a truth about misogyny, about men who kill women simply because they feel that’s their right as men. I can’t deny the art, what I really hate is the reality it represents.
I loved “God’s Gonna Trouble the Waters” by Dominqua Dickey. It was fascinating, a story of multi-generational secrets and the power they have, but also a story of love and redemption. William Boyle’s “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out” broke my heart. “I got broken by being so close to kindness.” Is there a sadder sentence?
I loved Mississippi Noir and recommend it highly. It gives us entrée to the variety and vitality of Mississippi, not just from the dirt roads of entrenched poverty but also the wide streets of suburbia and middle class ennui. If there is a common element, it’s a directness, the simplicity of telling a story that we need to hear.
I received an e-galley of Mississippi Noir from the publisher via Edelweiss. Check out the Akashic Noir series at Akashic Books.