Attica Locke on Her Favourite Southern Noir Novels
Few contemporary writers paint such an evocative picture of the Deep South as Attica Locke. A crime novelist of the most literary kind, her series of books featuring Ranger Darren Matthews have been justly lauded by both the press and her peers. Her latest, Heaven, My Home, is the Waterstones Thriller of the Month for June. In this exclusive piece, she sheds light on her favourite examples of the Southern Noir genre.
Its title taken from a childhood chant about the spelling of Mississippi, a state whose history is often as crooked as the innocent chant, Tom Franklin’s novel is everything southern noir should be: full of lyrical prose, hard-earned wisdom, and a snake’s nest of secrets. Buried in the personal histories of both Larry Ott and Silas Jones is the unsolved mystery of a missing girl, a crime that tore through both of their lives in different ways—defined by race and class, as so many things in Mississippi are—and decades later brings them together in an unexpected way.
Thomas Mullen has turned a piece of Atlanta history into a masterful, page-turning mystery about the first black police officers in the city, officers who are technically cuffed by their own department, which doesn’t give them the same power of the badge as their white counterparts. It forces the two black cops to use unorthodox methods to solve the death of a mysterious woman, making them more like noir private eyes than cops—an incredibly interesting twist on the classic procedural.
Michael Farris Smith is one of the most powerful southern voices in American literature. Here, Smith paints the Mississippi Delta as the complex place that it is—a place of darkness and danger, but also grace. Jack Boucher is punch-drunk fighter whose life is on the line in more ways than one. Filled with rich, utterly unforgettable characters, you will follow his redemption story while perched on the edge of your seat.
New Orleans in 1918, this novel’s setting, bears only a passing resemblance to the city we know now. But the seeds are there. Music—the birthplace of jazz. Corruption—city contracts falling into the wrong hands during construction of a canal through the city’s Ninth Ward. And violence—a serial axe murderer terrorizing a city. All while New Orleans is trying to cement itself as a cultural and economic jewel in the new century.
The only word I have for this book: perfection. There is not a single word wasted, not a single superfluous thought or kernel of wisdom in this taut tale of a mysterious fire in the Missouri Ozarks. Anna Dunahew, a lowly maid, suspects she knows the answers to what happened at a dance hall on the night of the fire, but it may take decades for her to find a way to be heard. The language in this novel is exquisitely beautiful and profound.
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