cover image South Central Noir

South Central Noir

Edited by Gary Phillips. Akashic, $16.95 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-63614-054-4

The 14 tales in this strong entry in Akashic’s noir series focus on the robust past and present of one of the most notorious areas not just in Southern California but the country. One highlight is Steph Cha’s gripping “All Luck,” in which a beleaguered Korean liquor store owner faces mounting financial pressure from gambling debts and sees the 1992 riots as his salvation so long as an insurance payout comes through. Landmarks figure prominently in numerous stories: in Emory Holmes II’s heartbreaking 1930s coming-of-age period piece “The Golden Coffin,” his hapless young narrator’s employment prospects at the prestigious Dunbar hotel intertwine with a serial killer running rampant; in Gar Anthony Haywood’s “All That Glitters,” a Watts Towers security guard learns about an urban legend associated with the unusual structures; and in Naomi Hirahara’s “I Am Yojimbo,” a clueless 14-year-old employee of the Kokusai Theatre discovers a racy VHS tape left behind and soon has yakuza after him. Phillips and his contributors dig deep, presenting a rich tapestry of stories varied in tone and perspective. (Sept.)