Friday’s Forgotten Books: New Noir by John Shirley

new noir john shirleyThe theme for this week’s Friday’s Forgotten Books is “forgotten story collections-single or multiple authors”.

New Noir is a small story collection by John Shirley that was published in 1993 by FC2/Black Ice Books with illustrations by Tim Ferret

John Shirley is a productive and eclectic writer of dark fiction whose work is considered influential and a part of the Cyberpunk, Splatterpunk and Bizzaro movements. New Noir is his take on the crime fiction genre.

Some of the stories, like “Jodie and Annie on TV” are straight up crime fiction and will not only be easy for crime readers to slip into but would fit right in over at Plots With Guns. Others, like “Skeeter Junkie”, are more horrific and surreal, giving a modern junky twist to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The fractured individuals of “I Want to Get Married Says the World’s Smallest Man!” have their frail humanity exposed and ends in pathos. There isn’t a bad story in the bunch and crime fiction fans, readers of dark fiction and fans and writers of short fiction should read New Noir ASAP if they haven’t already.

All of the stories feel relentlessly modern without a trace of old influences. While some would call these stories some form of new pulp there isn’t really any obvious indications of old pulp influence. This isn’t a bad thing, just an observation. I’ve remarked before how dominant the sometimes glib influence of pulp fiction can be in mystery and crime fiction that its refreshing to read a book whose influences are rooted elsewhere and that has a strong sense of self. These stories are fearless, almost as if the end of a century is like a cliff to be raced towards with gleeful amoral abandon and the pedal to the metal. What adds an extra dimension to these stories is that within this guise of amorality there are cracks that expose the light of social commentary. These stories often have something to say about our modern world.

The stories in New Noir all strive to be and do something else, something more. To engage you and make you think. They don’t always succeed, they are sometimes messy but they are always interesting and definitely worth your time and the effort.

The Stories:

“Jodie and Annie on TV”
“I Want to Get Married Says the World’s Smallest Man!”
“Skeeter Junkie”
“Recurrent Dreams of Nuclear War Lead B.T. Quizenbaum into Moral” “Dissolution”
“Just Like Suzie”

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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  1. This looks like a good transitional book for someone (like me) trying to get into more experimental writing.

  2. Well, Shirley is a mixed bag…sometimes experimental, sometimes very traditionalist, sometimes brilliant, sometimes utter hack (IN DARKNESS WAITING)…and relentlessly self-promoting, but not necesarily wrong in that.

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