Brooklyn Noir 2: the classics
Edited by Tim McLoughlin
I didn’t read the first in the series, but it didn’t seem important. After finishing this collection of perfectly pitched noir I’m gonna keep my eye out for the fist collection.
Tim McLoughlin has lined up a nice collection filled with detectives, cops, drunks, crazies, and everything in between. The only thing you might or might not feel is missing are the quick one-liners.
The stories range in publication date from 1928 to 2004 and they all manage to hit the same tone. It might be the subject matter; it happens to anyone who sits down to write about Brooklyn, in the end, they sound like, well, like someone from Brooklyn. Don’t be surprised if by the end of your read you spend an afternoon say things like “see hear wise guy.”
The stories are wonderful reflections of both a period in history and a neighborhood. I had a hard time recognizing the Brooklyn that I live in, neighborhood, like a woman that’s had one to many surgical enhancements, you think you know who she is, but with the thick lips, chin lift, and tummy tuck it’s hard to tell.
In truth, the collection didn’t wow me in anyway. There were only about three stories that really worked for me. Most of them had a couple joints out of place. The characters weren’t real enough or the plot was to much for a short story. Some (“The Best Friend Murder) were down right cheese. Here are a couple that really reached beyond being a crime drama on TNT.
From the section titled “New School Brooklyn” I loved “Tugboat Syndrome” by Jonathan Lethem. The narrator takes his time reflecting on the events in his youth that helped him define his weird behavior, turrets. The narrator and three other boys from St. Vincincet’s School are set up to work for Minna, the younger brother of a mobster. The narrator’s painful and honest descriptions of his outbursts made me chuckle and inwardly groan. He reflects on the relationships between the boys and the young mobster and never comes to any conclusions, letting you reach the end yourself. The story is at it’s best moments tender and raw, a look at what it means to be the youngest in the family, an immigrant, an orphan, turrets patient.
The other story I loved, “The Day of the Bullet” by Stanley Ellin, follows a similar theme. The narrator is having breakfast with his wife, when he notices the front page story of her newspaper is about his childhood friend who’s been shot. The story isn’t as fine as Lethem’s, it’s got a couple clunky bits, “But for every one of us there is that day. And when it leads to a bad end it’s better not to look back and search it out.” Occasionally the cheese factor hits 10, but the relationship between the boys is wonderfully rendered and it rings with truth.