Denver Noir

Edited by Cynthia Swanson. Akashic, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-63614-029-2

The 14 stories in this average Akashic noir anthology span time periods, neighborhoods, and milestones in the Mile High City’s history. The action starts on Colfax Avenue, which, according to the editor’s introduction, Playboy allegedly deemed “the longest, wickedest street in America,” with David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s “Colfax and Havana.” This emotive tale accentuates the street’s gritty reputation as racism and rashness undermine an attorney’s ambitions and chivalrous good deeds. Set in 1893, Swanson’s potent “Pieces of Everyone, Everywhere” mines the region’s macabre history, offering a memorably dark tale of defilement and desecration as a gravedigger, concealing painful secrets, is tasked with relocating thousands of dead bodies from a paupers’ cemetery. Another high point is Manuel Ramos’s powerful “Northside Nocturne,” which explores gentrification and racial hostility as rising violence, vigilantism, fear, and suspicion tear through a previously tight-knit community. In contrast, “A Baker’s Duckling,” R. Alan Brooks’s comic-strip story of community efforts to expose a white supremacist, feels out of place. Though some weaker contributions by less seasoned writers tarnish the overall quality, the ranging styles and broad variety of diverse voices will provide noir fans with plenty to savor. (May)