A Travelogue on Crime Avenue

A wonderful benefit of reading is the opportunity to simply visit a neighborhood, a country, or even another world without leaving your seat or the comfort of home. Undoubtedly, that scenario is heightened when reading a mystery novel which may use “the sense of place” as an essential element in story-telling. Some locations pose unexpected danger--and excitement.

If that reading journey has appeal, then look to the independent publishing company Akashic Books with its noir series titles.  The published books are set from Baltimore to Zagreb (Croatia), covering the United States and countries abroad. On the back of the books is a publisher message which reads, “Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original series of noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book is comprised of all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.” In 2013, Akashic Books received the Mystery Writers of America’s Ellery Queen Award for “outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”  

The back covers of the paperback books also feature a passage of the editor’s introduction which discusses the city, or the location wherever the title is set, and the list of writers for the volume.  Inside the books is a map of the identified locations with a white representation of chalk outline body.   

Noir is defined in the dictionary as “crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings.” The results of adding that feature to a travelogue theme can make for a unique set-up.   

To offer an insider perspective, the short story collection books are edited by established writers with ties to the locations. Take Dennis Lehane for instance. He edited the Boston Noir title and its sequel. A Boston native, his website states “[he] grew up in the Dorchester section of Boston. He’s published 10 novels, three of which (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island) have been made into award-winning films.”    

To date, Akashic Books has published 88 noir titles. Some have a sequel edition entitled “The Classics” that feature previously published short crime stories set in the book’s subject location.  The publisher company also has 18 forthcoming titles in the noir series with Atlanta, Baghdad, Houston, and Jerusalem included.  Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has several books in the series.