Professor Edits ‘Philadelphia Noir’ Collection

Ursinus Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Carlin Romano guides us through Philadelphia’s dark side, as editor of Philadelphia Noir (Akashic Books), a just-published collection of original short stories set in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Events launching the book are taking place around the Philadelphia area, including Ursinus College on Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Berman Museum of Art, where Romano will host a number of his contributors at a symposium titled, “What is Noir?” The public is invited to the free event; no reservations are necessary.

Kirkus Reviews, one of the book industry’s most important publications, has praised it for “an unerring sense of place. . . that will please the most discriminating lovers of the dark side.”

The critically-acclaimed 41-volume Akashic Noir series now finally includes Philadelphia, which joins locales from Copenhagen to Haiti, and Istanbul to Moscow, as well as numerous cities in the United States. According to Romano, Philadelphia “is widely considered one of American’s great noir cities, in part because it was the home of classic noir writer David Goodis, who set many of his novels there.”

Carlin Romano

Editor Romano has been Critic-at-Large of The Chronicle of Higher Education for the past ten years, and was Literary Critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty-five years before leaving the paper in 2009. In 2006, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, cited by the Pulitzer Board for “bringing new vitality to the classic essay across a formidable array of topics.”

Romano notes in his introduction that Ben Franklin, the Constitution framers, “George I-Cannot-Tell-A-Lie Washington” and noir might not seem like likely cohorts: “According to the national mythology,” he writes, “and even our local creation tale about William Penn’s “Greene country towne,” Philadelphia Blanc makes a more sensible title for a volume of local stories than Philadelphia Noir.” Yet, he notes that Philadelphia’s history is anything but all Brotherly Love. Moreover, unlike more glamorous cities, Romano explains, “in Philadelphia we do ordinary noir- the humble killings, robberies, collars, cold cases that confront people largely occupied with getting by.”

The collection of 15 original short stories includes Meredith Anthony, Diane Ayres, Cordelia Frances Biddle, Keith Gilman, Cary Holladay, Solomon Jones, Gerald Kolpan, Aimee LaBrie, Halimah Marcus, Carlin Romano, Asali Solomon, Laura Spagnoli, Duane Swierczynski, Dennis Tafoya, and Jim Zervanos.

Philadelphia Noir includes a story by Romano — “Cannot Easy Normal Die,”  — set in West Philadelphia. Publishers Weekly notes that “The 15 stories in this Akashic noir anthology mostly support Romano’s thesis in his introduction:  “Philadelphia noir is different from the mood, the sensibility, the dimensions, of noir encountered in more glamorous American cities  such as New York or L.A.”
Other area events are listed on the web site: <http://www.akashicbooks.com/>. — W.G.philadelphianoir.htm