Local Authors Book Review: ALABAMA NOIR

A heart-felt goal of the Haunted Bookshop is to be a place that brings together literary Mobile. One casualty of COVID19 is our book signing with local authors for the new anthology, Alabama Noir, out this past week. Since we can’t be together to celebrate this collection’s release, we’re coming together here instead.

Alabama Noir will appeal to fans of mystery and detective stories, as well as Southern gothic. As editor Don Noble says in the book’s introduction:

In Alabama Noir, we encounter “troubles and foibles” galore, darkness in many forms. The stories range from the deadly grim to some that are actually mildly humorous. We see desperate behavior on the banks of the Tennessee River, in the neighborhoods of Birmingham, in the affluent suburbs of Mobile, in a cemetery in Montgomery, and even on the deceptively pleasant beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

The collection is divided into “our troubled troubadour” Hank Williams’ songs as title sections—Cold, Cold Heart; Your Cheatin’ Heart; I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry; and The Angel of Death. Each section has short stories with the location the story and author represents.

From our part of the state along the Gulf coast, we have Carolyn Haines’s story set in Downtown Mobile. “The Price of Indulgence” follows a Mobile Register reporter with a moonshine business on the side. The reporter is given a crime story to cover but as she chases the smoke, realizes, like all things in the South, this one twines deep into her own past as well. It has a shady pastor, a dug-up grave, a ghostly Angel in White, and a junkie-dancer past redemption but out to set the truth free. Everything you expect in a Carolyn Haines story that drips Spanish moss and justice.

In West Mobile, Michelle Richmond’s “What Brings You Back Home” is a beautifully written, gut-wrenching story about a mother out to avenge her family, coming back to Mobile to do so. To a “hot, humid slice of the Southern dream” which differs from the American dream as it’s “friendlier, and with more mayonnaise.” The sweet, sickly scent of gardenias, pecan pie, gun rights, and pompous senators permeates this story.

Across the bay, Winston Groom infuses humor in his story “Murder at the Grand Hotel” set in Point Clear. Things go awry when a disgruntled river delta guide boat captain, hit by unknown-to-him entertainment taxes that will bankrupt his business, goes after the head of the Alabama Department of Revenue. With his quail dog, he digs a punji pit, filled with heat-tempered bamboo stakes, at the eleventh hole of the Lakewood golf course. The story is filled with his trials and errors, and of all things, a lady dwarf, to create a story of comical Southern grotesque the way only Winston Groom can write it.

In Gulf Shores, Brad Watson’s story, “Laughing Boy, Crooked Girl” opens up in a memorable way as the main character feeds an ancient alligator whole chickens stuffed with her aunt’s possessions. No coastal story would be complete without an approaching hurricane and this Southern gothic is seasoned nicely with poisoned eggs, a Creek Indian mummy, and a bent and forgotten protagonist.

With sixteen stories representing all parts of Alabama, readers of noir and Southern gothic will be sure to find something to entertain and chill their spine. And perhaps be secretly glad this social distancing thing is keeping the neighbors away and in their own homes.

Pick up your copy of Alabama Noir from our no-contact curb. Or have it delivered, porch-side in select neighborhoods or shipped.

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