Drinking establishments are an intregal part of crime fiction. There are night clubs with shady goings on, the poor sap who seals his fate with the femme fatale in the corner booth, and PI who finds solace at his favorite watering whole. Bars are perhaps even more of a standard than a fedora and forty-four. It’s hard not to read without wanting a belt of something. That’s why a few writers and fans have launched Noir At The Bar, readings by established and up-and-coming crime fiction talent in local taverns. They’ve been popping up across the country and MysteryPeople is excited to host Austin’s first Noir at the Bar TONIGHT, Thursday June 7th, at 7PM at Opal Divine’s on W. 6th Street.
It originally started in Phililelphia by Peter Rozovsky who runs the crime fiction blog Detectives Beyond Borders. The idea came when he was talking to a bartender freind about writing. “It probably helped that most of the decor of his bar was primarily black.”
His first event was with Duane Swierczynski and an actress reading from his violent espionage-action-corprate-satire-thriller Severance Package. He continued to experiment.
“We’ve done a bit of genre jumping, with Jonathan Maberry. I was also pleased when I got Declan Burke and John McFetridge to stop in Philadelphia on the way to Bouchercon 2008 for a twofer international Noir at the Bar – and Scott Phillips showed up. And Dennis Tafoya, piggybacking on a previously planned event featuring Pete Dexter, packed the place. And I’d always be especially pleased when some noisy bar regular would shut up for a minute and pay attention to the reading.”
Scott Phillips told his fiend and fellow author, Jedidiah Ayers, about what Peter was doing, they decided to do the same thing in St. Louis.
“Peter had a great name for his event, Noir At The Bar,” says Ayres. “We stole the name. We’d do it again.”
“We wanted to let writers we dig know that they were dug in St. Louis. We wanted to throw them a party. Let’s face it, Benjamin Whitmer, or Jane Bradley, or Les Edgerton isn’t going to sell enough books at a single event to justify making the trip – these guys are doing it ’cause they want to have a good time, and it sounds like a damn good time to them. I hope we delivered.”
“Then there are writers like Kyle Minor, David James Keaton or Jesus Angel Garcia who are just work horses – putting themselves through the wringer physically, psychically and financially to put themselves and their work out there. Drive all day, burn the house down, drive on all night. They remind me of road musicians and I admire the hell out of them. They are welcome at the bar.”It has become a welcoming point for authors with many a legendary moment.
“There have been moments of infamy, like the bar band striking up in the next room right in the middle of Sean Doolittle’s reading. Sean just got louder – finished that performance like a champ and then Pinckney Benedict followed and belted his weird-ass story over the top of some Sly Stone cover – if you’ve never read his story Pig Helmet & the Wall of Life please do so and then try to imagine it getting even more surreal ’cause that’s what you missed. Fred Venturini got sexually harassed and heckled during his reading by another writer (only time that’s happened at our events). But hey, Fred’s got sexy muscles and probably has that happen a lot ’cause it didn’t faze him.”
They even published an anthology to support local store Subterrainian Books. It may be known as much for it’s derisive blurbs from authors like Lawerance Block and Megan Abbott, than the actual work inside. The book is still a local bestseller, even though it’s been out for almost a year.
More than anything Noir At The Bar has proven to be great venue for crime fiction fans and writers to gather.
“And the community aspect of the whole thing can’t be oversold,” Jedidiah Ayers said. “One thing I hear again and again from the writers who participate is how isolated they feel in their own town (doesn’t matter if it’s New York or L.A.) My wife encourages me to do these things just so that I’ve got an opportunity to rub elbows with other like-mind weirdos and perverts. If I don’t get this stuff out of my system around them, it’ll come out and be inflicted upon my long-suffering family.”
MysteryPeople is kicking ours off with a grat line up. Peter Farris’s Southern hard boiled debut, Last Call For The Living is the store’s Pick Of The Month. Barry Graham’s books, like When It All Comes Down To Dust, look at evil until one of you blinks; usually evil. Jonathan Woods is drawing comparisons to Siminone and Derek Raymond with his rough and weird A Death In Mexico. Since we are the the live music capitol of the world, we’ll have a reading and performance from local legen Jesse Sublett with an opening set by singer/songwriter Chris Hoyt. Don’t plan on any Sly Stone covers.
“I’m gratified and flattered by the Noir at the Bars that have followed mine,” says Peter. “John McFetridge invited me up to Toronto to host an event with Sean Chercover and Howard Shrier, and Jed Ayers and Scott Phillips have done a terrific series of readings in St. Louis. The St. Louis series gave rise to a short-story collection that included a profanity-laced tribute of which I am immensely proud. I don’t know the folks who do Noir at the Bar in Los Angeles, but I think they got Christa Faust for one of their readings, which speaks well of them.”“The successor Noir at the Bars have me thinking about setting up some more events in Philadelphia. (I have at least one guest in mind.) I feel like a proud father watching his children go out into the world and do well. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the little pissers make the old man look bad.”
“Thanks for setting up this event, good luck with it, and welcome to the Noir at the Bar family.”
Thanks for letting us steal, Peter.
Join us tonight June 7, at 7PM at Opal Divine’s (700 West 6th St.).