IT ROCKS: CLEVELAND NOIR EDITED BY MICHAEL UHLMAN & MIESHA WILSON HEADEN
When Akashic announced they were going to release one of their city noir anthologies featuring Cleveland, I was surprised they already hadn't. The blue collar town with a history of civic corruption, organized crime, The Torso Killer, and a river on fire was a perfect fit. Luckily, when the time came authors Michael Ruhlman and Miesha Wilson Headen put together an entertaining take collection.
Some of the stories deal with Cleveland's past. Susan Petrone's "The Silent Partner" gives us a newspaper procedural with a sports writer in the seventies looking into the death of a ball player during an Indians game in the 1920s. "Lenny, But Not Corkey" by Daniel Stashower looks at the changes of the city with a sixties rocker sitting down for a present day interview about a scandal in his past.
As with all Akashic Noir series, many of the authors deal with the minorities and subcultures of the city. Sam Conrad deals with the trials of a gay Massasauga Chippewa teen with his corrupt, abusive white father in "Jock Talk". Another corrupt cop deals with his involvement with an African American woman in Abby L. Vandiver's "Sugar Daddy."
Gentrification continues to be a strong current event to influence noir. An entire section titled "The Trendy" contain stories that at least touch on it. Alex DiFrancesco gives us a poignant take on how "The House On Fir Avenue" haunts a widowed father.
Both editors know humor plays a part of the genre in their own contributions. Ruhlman's "The Ultimate Cure" gives its divorced heroine a funny, jaundice point of view on her love life and involvement with a questionable new man. Headen has fun with a crooked church accountant in "The Book Of Numbers".
Ruhlman and Headen introduce us to a number of talented writers as they look at all aspects of the city: high, low, and in between. They give fresh takes on noir while never leaving it's hard boiled and thriller roots. It may have been a wait for Cleveland to get its noir due, but the timing was perfect.