It’s not necessarily their fault that they have all these misunderstandings about DC. The way the city is portrayed in literature and movies it’s easy to think DC is little more than the capital building, the National Mall, and the Lincoln Memorial with the swanky houses and restaurants of Georgetown squeezed in-between. With all this skewed coverage and perspective it’s nice to see an anthology like DC Noir pulling together stories that create a much more realistic-albeit dark and gritty-portrait of DC.
Edited by local crime fiction author George Pelecanos, the book does a phenomenal job presenting the different neighborhoods and wide variety of residents of DC. From congressional aids on capital hill to petty thieves in Hill East, it shows that DC is a city where people live, struggle and die every day.
As a whole the book holds up a pretty grim view on life. Life for the average person is hard and it only gets harder when your life intersects with the criminal world. College students confronting big time drug dealers, a reporter covering the riots in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, a store owner defending his business from teenage vandal are just some of the gritty yet thrilling challenges. The one story that goes against this is Laura Lippmann’s “A.R.M. and the Woman”; a divorced housewife decides the only way she can hold onto the lifestyle she’s grown used to is by killing her ex-husband and collecting on the insurance money.
Many of the authors in the anthology are not known for fiction; aside from pulling from the normal channels of novelists and short fiction writers Pelecanos used his contacts in television and journalism to bring in writers who carry in their own unique experiences and styles to the page. Each story, regardless of the writer’s background, is taught, grim and thrilling fiction. My only complaint is that one major facet of DC is missing: tourists. Focusing on the local residents is great, but love them or hate them tourists do make up a large part of the feel of our beloved DC. But perhaps wanting to see some naïve tourist get caught up in something dangerous is my own issue.