Meanwhile, in Philly: PHILADELPHIA NOIR

1. Laura Spagnoli (author of “A Cut Above”, part of the collection) and Halimah Marcus (author of “Swimming” (ditto) and EL staffer) 2. Carlin Romano, editor of Philadelphia Noir, and Diane Ayres, author of “Seeing Nothing” also in the collection.

Derelict el trains, dead bodies dumped in municipal pools, and monstrous rats with sugar-encrusted eyes: the city of Philadelphia offers plenty of grisly detail for the noir aficionado. Yet despite such dark subject matter, longtime Philadelphia Inquirer lit critic Carlin Romano — editor of the new collection Philadelphia Noir (Akashic Books) — curated perhaps the most warm and fuzzy release party ever for a noir compilation this Sunday, at the Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood.

In a curious new reading style, which Romano dubbed the “wave of the future,” most of the book’s contributors fanned out onstage as Romano presented the new volume, then gave brief synopses of their stories.

“Group hug,” one audience member yelled.

Presentations were brief but lively.

“My story is about the Frankfort El stop,” said Duane Swierczynski, author of “Lonergan’s Girl.” “The most noir place on the planet.”

1. Jim Zervanos (author of “Your Brother, Who Loves You” in the collection)


Notable characters included a suburban psychiatrist obsessed with his murderous patient, a rat-catcher obsessed with comedy stardom, and a young lunatic obsessed with Grace Kelly.

Romano said he was surprised by how many historical stories he received for the volume.

“Maybe it’s because people from Philadelphia are so stuck in the past,” one audience member suggested.

“Paris Noir didn’t even have any historical stories,” said reader Laura Spagnoli. “And they could go way back.”

Many of the readers also seemed to go way back, which gave the whole affair a loose, communal vibe, like a party of friends who just happened to write a book together — not a bad metaphor for Philadelphia’s literary scene.

“I love this place,” Romano said, referring to Moonstone Arts — the new incarnation of longtime Philadelphia institution Robin’s Bookstore. “I met a lot of the people who ended up in the collection right here.”

Convivial atmosphere and true grit: Philadelphia is all about these contrasts.

“That’s this city,” Romano informed the audience. “Turn left and there’s the Declaration House, turn right and someone’s shitting on the street.”

–Sam Allingham’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, Epoch, and AnOther Magazine. He lives in the pleasant neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

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