Through a city, darkly
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
The annual Noir-Con, a convention of crime writers and their fans, will open this week. Meanwhile, readers are opening a new book of short stories set in Philadelphia. "Philadelphia Noir" uncovers the dark side of the city, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Most of the stories in "Philadelphia Noir" start slow and sweet. But lean in for a kiss from the City of Brotherly Love and you'll find it on the business end of a hot, wet fist. Laura Spagnoli's story set in Rittenhouse Square begins with a lady's broken heel and ends with blood on a white cashmere sweater.
"It can be good when telling a story – especially one that draws you in and makes you afraid of what's going to happen next – if you have a character who is undergoing a transformation," said Spagnoli. "In this case, her transformation is not very positive."
For her story, Spagnoli used the recent local case of a young couple who stole IDs to pay for their lavish lifestyle. Editor Carlin Romano, former literary critic for the Inquirer, says he wanted the stories to use the city as a supporting character.
"A lot of the writers nailed place. Chestnut Hill was good," said Romano. "In the Frankford story, you get a sense of being on the El and dreading the person sitting next to you."
Romano, who says he has never been a big fan of noir, said he mixed up the city's experienced crime writers with young literary writers. His own stab at noir finds grist in a West Philly real estate transaction.