Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Good noir at a good bar, Part I

I've complained, most recently in a discussion on Jay Stringer's Facebook wall, that "too many writers (of noir and neo-noir) think sticking their characters in a trailer park and having them crack wise while spitting out teeth near the meth lab is enough." I recently attended a Noir at the Bar at New York's Shade Bar that presented several exceptions. Here's what made some of those readings stand out.

Danny Gardner. Photos by Peter
Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond
Borders, except where notes.
Danny Gardner is also a stand-up comedian and an actor, so he reads well. Beyond that, his story, from an upcoming anthology inspired by Johnny Cash's songs ("Black people love Johnny Cash," he said, citing Cash's employment of black musicians and his refusal to play venues were black people were not admitted), hit on social themes, striking hard without coming on preachy. His story, he said, is about gun violence, its consequences, and who causes it. (Hint: It's not young black males.) When he did address a social problem directly, it seemed more an exciting Brechtian provocation than middle-class slumming, guilt mongering, or do-gooding.

Brian M. Panowich
Brian Panowich, unrecognizable at first because I'd never seen him without his cowboy hat, read with expression and emotion and offered the terrific sight gag of yanking out one of his teeth. The villain of his story was unexpected, as were the MacGuffin and, especially, the story's ending. Like Gardner's story, Panowich's offered unflinching explicit violence. Unlike too much new noir, neo-noir, and recent hard-boiled, both took that violence seriously, again without preaching or anything approaching torture porn.

Eric Beetner
Eric Beetner, who runs Noir at the Bar in Los Angeles, threw a gracious hat tip my way for creating Noir at the Bar here in Philadelphia in 2008. He also read a story that embraced the misty glamour of 1940s Los Angeles in every word without, however, tumbling into schmaltz. That's no easy feat, and it shows the man has chops.

Ed Aymar
Ed Aymar, who organizes Noir at the Bar in Washington, D.C., read a story that centered on looting and packed a contemporary punch even as it harked back in a highly satisfying way to noir's roots in melodrama. And these four writers are four reasons I feel better about new noir and neo-noir than I did last week.

(Jen Conley and Scott Adlerberg organized the New York event, and Gardner, Panowich, Beetner, and Aymar were just four of a large group of readers. I'll write about some of them soon, In the meantime, here's a photo of all the readers plus Jen and Scott, courtesy of Mark Krajnak.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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2 Comments:

Blogger Brian Panowich said...

Thank you for the kind words, brother. And I've come to find out that Clark Kent's glasses just might really work. The hat goes back on in Canada.

July 19, 2017  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The pleasure was mine, and I suspect that your reading sold a few books. Good to know that I'll recognize you in Toronto.

July 19, 2017  

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