Las Vegas Alert: More About 'Noir'


   I first told you about this book when the authors were hitting the town with personal appearances and signings. Since then, I’ve had a chance to look between the covers. I prefer to read anthologies a bit at a time or when I have other distractions that keep me from hunkering down with a good mystery novel, such as a vacation. But in the interests of giving you a heads up I worked my way through “Las Vegas Noir” in one chunk of time.
   The book is part of a series of “noirs” set in cities such as New York, Detroit and San Francisco in the U.S. and Dublin, Toronto and Havana elsewhere in the world. The gimmick is that local writers — or those familiar enough with the given city to seem so — tell their dark tales with details that are actually accurate. No driving along Charleston Boulevard and ending up at McCarran International Airport, that kind of thing.
   And while that is comforting to a local, I find that a good story is more important than geographical accuracy. Which is not to say this book is bad. There are stories I really like, such as:
   —  Jose Skinner’s “All About Balls,” featuring a fifth-year graduate student in American Studies who cares more about his full head of hair than what’s beneath it. His attempt to find adequate subjects for his master’s thesis is wicked fun.
   —  Keeping with the humorous theme, Felicia Campbell’s “Murder Is Academic” is Evanovichian at times with its cranky associate professor of political science popularly known as “M.” I wonder whether ears are burning at UNLV as Campbell, who teaches there herself, hurls a few brickbats at academia. Oh, I hope so. She has a series character here if she chooses to develop M.
   Others I recommend include Vu Tran’s “This or Any Desert,” Pablo Medina’s “Benny Rojas and the Rough Riders” and Preston L. Allen’s “Crip.”
   But there also are stories that I can’t suspend my disbelief. Tod Goldberg’s “Mitzvah” is a clever idea on the surface and well-written, and yet I just can’t buy a wiseguy filling in for a rabbi. Though this is the story that probably would be made into a movie. Christine McKellar’s “Bits and Pieces” just doesn’t hang together for me. And the “big writer” in the bunch, John O’Brien, who committed suicide before his novel “Leaving Las Vegas” hit the big screen, has an off-putting story called “The Tik.”
   Well then, should you read this? If you like noir you should give it a try. At least you’ll know the directions are right.