PROMISES

There was a bird on the windowsill, a sparrow, its silhouette backlit by a view of Uptown. She remembered many sparrows during her forced trips to Mercy Hospital. She would often look out the window during her visits, watching them fly as far as downtown Pittsburgh before returning back to the hospital. That was all over now. Nothing was left to be taken care of besides the services and the will. She felt certain she’d get the house, which had been passed down through generations, from when Pittsburgh was a great city and Uptown was still a respectable place. Now, only junkies and bums lined Fifth Avenue, and the most respectable place there was a Plasma Center. If she did get the house, she thought of leaving it behind, furniture and all, with the door wide open for everyone. She knew she didn’t want the place.

From the other side of the room, she looked at the sparrow on the windowsill. It looked back with small, black, knowing eyes. While its wings moved about repeatedly, the bird didn’t move from its perch; it just flapped as if there was something stuck in its feathers.

She adjusted her veil, turning back toward the mirror when there was a knock at the door. She knew it was her brother. “Come in,” she said.

“Feeling better?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Nervous?”

“A bit.”

 

*   *   *

 

Earlier in the day, they had been arguing. She didn’t want to go through with it, but he was pushing hard.

“Here,” he’d said, handing her a small stack of note cards. “I wrote up some things for you to read.”

She scanned the cards quickly. “That’s all a bunch of crap.”

“Look,” he snipped, “great men do bad things. It just happens. Some men drink;

sometimes, after they drink, they get crazy; whatever they do while they’re crazy can’t be held against them. Won’t be held against him, understand?”

“You know that it happened more than once,” she said, trying to hold back.

“I don’t know anything about that. In fact,” he frowned unconvincingly, trying to contort his actual expression, “the only thing I do know is that the will can be changed. Play along and we’ll all be happier. Promise.”

She sighed and rubbed her temples.

“Just read what I gave you.”

“I don’t think I’ll—”

He interrupted her. She wiped her mouth and checked the back of her hand for blood.

“You know I’ll be getting the business—definitely the North Side warehouses, anyway. And if you’re lucky, you might end up a piece of something—I hear you might even get this house—but like I said, the will is fluid. Why do you think I got my lawyer on it? I need this, so why don’t you keep your mouth shut,” he fumed, pausing to look at her pursed lips. “Yeah, see! Just like that. Keep it shut unless you’re reading what I gave you to read. I got Sheryl and Gene to care for. The fuck you got? Let me handle this. I get the business, sell it off, give everyone a cut, then get the hell out of here with my family. Whatever you’re in for now, I’ll try to make sure you get a little more after this is all said and done. That’s not so bad.”

First he wasn’t so bad, she thought, and now his son wasn’t, either. Awful, heartless people were never so bad. That was their great comfort—that someone, somewhere, was probably worse than them. It was like Lucifer falling back on his days as an angel.

Before she could say anything else, he left the room, slicking back his mussed hair and closing the door behind him.

 

*   *   *

 

“So you’re ready to go?” he asked impatiently. It’d been an hour since the argument and they were running late.

Without turning around, she held up the note cards. She heard him walk out of the room, the door left open. His footsteps were as hollow as he was. She adjusted the veil one more time and stuffed the notes in her bag, complete with revisions.

From across the room, she looked at the sparrow again. After a moment, she walked over to the window and opened it. The bird didn’t move, only stared up at her, cocking its head from side to side in bemusement. She knew that, to the bird, she was already dead.



Originally published by Akashic Books.

Ernest Hemingway said it was awfully easy to be hardboiled during the day, but I think Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe would beg to differ. Those cats and their brethren found trouble no matter where the sun was in the sky, and their sixth senses for sin are why we still love them and think they’re cool over a half century later. Noir literature was, of course, also the basis for some of the most beautifully shot and persistantly hip films known to man, and, thanks to some presses with excellent taste, books full of those iconic images are now stocked on our shelves. Because of its morally and stylistically complex exploration of the darkest sides of modern life, noir literature and film have also spawned a whole field of criticism. Anyway, in the wake of noir femme fatale Lauren Bacall’s death, and inspired by the sultry Chicago summer, here’s a collection of some of our finest offerings in noir fiction, criticism, and art, from curbsidesplendor, akashicbooks, overlookpress, versobooks and more. Bang, bang.

Complete list/ordering info here.

Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet- a review by Jessica Curtis

Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet- a review by Jessica Curtis

 Pills and Starships, written by: Lydia Millet
Review Written by: Jessica Curtis
Publisher: Akashic Books
Release Date: May 19,2014

Amazon (Kindle Edition)/Barnes and Nobles (Nook Edition)/Kobo

If you could dream or really have a nightmare of a future where the population is controlled by the government you would be dreaming of the world portrayed in Lydia Millet’s ‘Pills and Starships‘. Welcome to…

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Punk icons Henry Rollins and Alec MacKaye lend their pens to this photo book about a tight window into the punk scene in D.C. One might have seen a few of these shots in Banned in DC or perhaps Dance of Days already, but still, photographer Lucian Perkins, whose work is featured here, is a Pulitzer Prize winner and it’s good to learn more about this music scene that was so important internationally.

Akashic Books

Review of Prison Noir, Short Story Collection, Edited by: Joyce Carol Oates

Review of Prison Noir, Short Story Collection, Edited by: Joyce Carol Oates

Amazon/Barnes& Nobles/ Books-A-Million/Goodreads/

Review by: Kristie Hendricks

Prison Noir
Edited by Joyce Carol Oates

Contributors: Christopher M. Stephen, Sin Soracco, Scott Gutches, Eric Boyd, Ali F. Sareini, Stephen Geez, B.M. Dolarman, Zeke Caligiuri, Marco Verdoni, Kenneth R. Brydon, Linda Michelle Marquardt, Andre White, Timothy Pauley, Bryan K. Palmer, William Van Poyck

Akashic Books

Rel…

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Welp, guys. I made the cover. So fucking exciting. Incidentally, the first name on the cover, William Van Poyck, is the man whose work I read in NYC last month.

Book Description

Launched with the summer ’04 award-winning best seller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location.

This anthology presents an absolutely new perspective on prison literature. Some prisoners are encouraged to write, but few are encouraged to write crime fiction set behind bars (in some institutions, that subject matter is prohibited). Joyce Carol Oates has done an outstanding job of curating a top-notch collection of stories that bring the reader truly behind the “scenes” of prison life.

As Oates writes in her introduction to the volume, “The blood jet is poetry—these words of Sylvia Plath have reverberated through my experience of reading and rereading the stories of Prison Noir. In this case the blood jet is prose, though sometimes poetic prose; if we go a little deeper, in some chilling instances, the blood jet is exactly that: blood … There is no need for fantasy-horror in a place in which matter-of-fact horror is the norm, and mental illness is epidemic. Vividly rendered realism is the predominant literary strategy, as in a riveting documentary film.”

AVAILABLE 9/2/14
— AkashicBooks.com
— Powells.com
— BN.com
— Amazon.com

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