Noir: The Ha-Ra Readings

Just recently I came across a podcast of a reading I did awhile back, for the launch of the Peter Maravelis-edited anthology San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics on Valentine’s Day 2009. The Ha-Ra Bar was packed to the rafters to hear various authors read from stories featured either in the first San Francisco Noir collection or the just-released Classics. But the other readers — Craig Clevenger, John Shirley, David Corbett, Sin Sorrocco — apparently went up against a raging refrigeration unit, and lost the battle. Only Domenic Stansberry and I somehow emerged with vocals that could be deciphered over the hubbub of the bar and the wild electronic humming.

Domenic had an original story in the first book, one of the best stories in the collection — and personally I think he’s one of the best of the modern noir writers in this area. His Noir Manifesto only became available on the net recently, if you want to see what he says on that favorite subject.

For my reading I selected section two of “Knives in the Dark” from Classics, reprinted from the massive anthology Measures of Poison released by Dennis McMillan in 2002. I particularly like that section, because it tosses Bill “Young Wild West” Arney into action. Not the actual Bill Arney, famed as the Voice of Noir and host of Cheese Theatre, but a rootin’ tootin’ gat-packing avatar that might have appeared in Black Mask. The audience laughed at the right spots, so I figured they enjoyed the Arney moments, too.

After I finished the reading and ducked outside for some air, a young woman did come up and accuse me of being anti-Semitic, though. I believe her remark was: “That was very anti-Semitic.”

I looked at her in bafflement and replied, “It was?”

She said, “Yes. You used the term Jewing.”

“I did? No, I don’t think so.”

She then told me she didn’t hear very well and walked away.

Prowling through section two later, the only words I figure could have been misheard easily were “jewelry” or “chewing,” though the racial slur wouldn’t have made sense in context, in either case. Jeez, the perils of public appearances.

The other highlight of the evening came after the readings were done, and most of the hundred-plus people had left. Only about fifteen of us still sat around talking, when a group of about twenty bar-hoppers decorated in pink hearts and Valentine stuff poured in the door. The legendary Carl the Bartender gave them the cold eye, and without bothering to even try to sell them a round of drinks told them to leave.

I asked him why.

“I don’t like people,” Carl said.

Thinking it over, that was one great Valentine’s Day.

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