Three of them are shooting hoops in the echo chamber between our house and the neighbor’s, close clapboard and winter-washed cedars walling in the narrow driveway. Someone is the swaggering smuggler of an enormous speaker, and the bass ricochets off the concrete. There’s a wife-beater, boom box vibe even though it’s Spotify. In my small-town childhood only boys without cars had boom boxes, and they slunk down Main Street blasting Metal to distortion, trailing smoke, projecting danger. The boys at the boarding school up the hill, ravaged stoners, were less aggressive but more alienated.
An Almost-Spring Saturday Night, Providence, RI, My Son’s Fifteenth Birthday
Book by ANN HOOD, ELIZABETH STROUT, PETER FARRELLY, BRUCE DESILVA, MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE, ROBERT LEUCI, DAWN RAFFEL, LUANNE RICE, THOMAS COBB, JOHN SEARLES, TAYLOR M. POLITES, PABLO RODRIGUEZ, AMITY GAIGE, LASHONDA KATRICE BARNETT, HESTER KAPLAN Reviewed by SUSAN TACENT
Noir is not my regular genre. But I have read my fair share of Raymond Chandler, and I’ve seen The Big Sleep more than once. I’m from Brooklyn originally—Noir Central—and I’ve lived in Rhode Island for over 20 years. So I jumped at the opportunity to review Providence Noir, Brooklyn-based Akashic Books’s latest entry in its 11-year-old Noir series, atmospheric story collections set in cities all over the world.
Part of the fun of reading the series is imagining familiar landmarks in a sinister light. The appropriately mysterious cover photo of Providence Noir looks out on a deserted Dorrance Street, in the city’s old center, from an alley behind the Union Trust Company at night. The sidewalk looks wet where the streetlight falls. Might be rain, might be blood. We also see Coffee Exchange, Central High, Trinity Rep. Benefit Street, Adler’s Hardware, India Point Park. These are the places where we Providence folk overcaffeinate, or teach, or take our kids to watch A Christmas Carol. Places where we try to find parking for jury duty, pick up paint to brighten the kitchen, buy freshly made pasta, enjoy one more late summer picnic. Turned by the writers ofProvidence Noir into sites of intrigue, mayhem, and death, they make the little reptilian hairs on the back our necks rise, as if suddenly we find ourselves inside the fiction on the page.
On the last day of the conference, we take a short bus ride to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a sleepy town in the Blackstone Valley, just south of the Massachusetts state line. Situated along the Blackstone River and close to the Eastern Seaboard, the area was at the forefront of early American industry, powered first by water and later by steam. Today, a bright winter afternoon in February, snow melting underneath a clear uncurtained sky, the town center of slow-moving traffic and brick storefronts fringed with weathered canvas awnings has the distilled reverie of an elegy.