Whiskey, Words and a Hatchet

Whiskey, Words and a Hatchet
Shawn A. Cosby and Eryk Pruitt

The following article is by Shawn A. Cosby, author of the upcoming “My Darkest Prayer” (Intrigue Publishing). You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Cosby’s book will be out later in 2018.

The 2018 Noir at the Bar crawl started (for me at least) with a bitter disappointment and ended with a great accomplishment. In between, there was a fascinating adventure that involved lots of drinking, lots of talking and an overwhelming sense that the crime writing community on the East Coast is alive and well if a little hungover…

Durham NC
The Noir at the Bar Crawl started at 106 and Main in Durham NC. Hosted by the tall Texan Eryk Pruitt and the wonderful actress Tracy Reynolds. the lineup was ridiculously strong with readings by noted wordsmiths like Jamie Mason, LynDee Walker and Warren Moore. Unfortunately, I missed the entire event because of a derailed train and the inflexibility of our railway station. However, Eryk Pruitt was there to experience all the mayhem.

ERYK: That’s right brother…I witnessed firsthand as David Terrenoire slaughtered the room with his fresh piece “Just Like Jesus.” I watched as more Moore than you bargained for—both Warren and his daughter Emily—laid waste to passersby, innocent or otherwise. I saw and survived readings from Jamie Mason, JD Allen, and Lyndee Walker delivered on the promise of “NOIR AF.” And, as always, the inimitable Tracey Reynolds brought it all together like Lebowski’s rug. We had everything there at 106 Main…everything that is, except for S.A. Cosby…

If you listened closely you could hear me screaming as my train was delayed for four hours…

Moving on…

Richmond VA
The Richmond leg of the Crawl was emblematic of the city itself. Eclectic, unique and a little scary. Hosts Marietta Miles kicked things off with her story “Alice” about a bully who gets his comeuppance. Bill Johnson read an excerpt from his fantastic novel “A Silent Tide” about a rum run that goes south in Prohibition Era Virginia. Ward Howarth read from his work in progress “Shelter from the Storm” about corruption in post-war Richmond, Virginia. McCormack’s Irish Bar has played hosts to several Noir at the Bar events over the years. The atmosphere and the service are both excellent. As day slipped into night the stories also seemed to take on a more stygian tone. At one-point members of a punk band who were preparing for a show upstairs filtered down to the bar. The violent imagery and dark desires detailed in the stories being read seemed to draw them in like moths to a flame. Every writer brought their A game and the stories all cut right down to the bone. As Marietta said toward the end of the night “It’s always a murderer’s row in Richmond. “

A fitting statement for a city that was the home of Edgar Allan Poe.

Best line overheard at the event:
“I love violence. Almost as much as I love beer.”
After Ward Howarth read from his work in progress.

Washington DC
Ed Aymar is a walking ball of controlled chaos. His energy is slightly contagious. As Host of the Washing leg of Noir at the Bar he immediately sets the tone as soon as he stepped on stage. You soon realized you needed to check your inhibitions at the door. Ellen Lamb started things off with a sublime tale of neighborly one-upmanship called “Yard Work” Matthews Iden’s story “Honeypot’ hypnotized the crowd. The tale of a down on his luck pickpocket also included a shout out to the Shade Bar in New York. The Shade has been the sight of many great Noir at the Bar events and many great nights of copious alcohol consumption. The crowd was then treated to a reading by one of the great suspense authors of our times Mr. James Grady author of, Six Days of the Condor But it was Angie Kim who walked away with the Audience Prize for best story for her tale of love, sex and home improvements titled “Plaster, Paint Cement.” The crowd at the Wonderland Ballroom was big, boisterous and bawdy with just a smattering of nefarious intent. In other words, a lot like the city itself.

Best line overheard at the event:
“I’ve never been so aroused and so afraid in my entire life.”
This was uttered immediately after Angie Kim’s reading.

Baltimore MD
Baltimore is a city with a chip on its shoulder and a song in its heart. It’s the city that produced both the Wire and Hairspray. It’s a gritty and surreal place where OG’s rub shoulders with the ghost of Fredrick Douglas while John Waters laughs in a polyester suit.

The readers at the Baltimore leg of the Noir Crawl symbolized the city’s enduring multiplicity.

Hosted by Nik Korpron the writers who gathered in Zella’s Pizzeria pushed the boundaries of what Noir can be into new and intriguing territory.

Alex Novak’s story “I am Tigre de Los Bravos” about mischievous demigod who uses his powers to annoy the denizens of a village to near madness had the crowd laughing nervously. Beth Howard read the tale of a supernatural undercover agent waist deep in the hypocrisy of Evangelical extremists from her upcoming novel Embracing the Demon. Ronald Malfi had listeners on the edge of their seats then recoiling in terror as he spun a tale of a dinner party gone horribly wrong in the eponymous titled “The Dinner Party.” Sujata Massey read a beautiful excerpt from her novel about the only female lawyer in colonial India in “The Widows of Malabar Hill.” At the end of the night, Damien Angelica Walters transfixed the crowd with her powerful and twisted take on the superhero/supervillain dynamic with “S is for Soliloquy”. Anyone who says they saw the twist at the end of that story coming is a liar. Zella’s was the perfect venue for these writers and for this event. Long after the microphone was put away conversations about the craft went on long into the night fueled by some of the best pizza in all of Maryland.

Best line overheard at the event:
“Well I’m never making a pot roast again.”
This was mumbled into a glass of beer after Ronald Malfi finished his reading.

Wilmington DE
Even though it was a border state during the civil war and it’s only an hour from Baltimore Wilmington has a distinctly northern feel. From the thick accents you hear at the local hot dog joint (Youse guys ready to ordah) to the tunnel vision of folks traipsing down the sidewalks, Wilmington is a tough Northern town with a blue-collar heart. Which is somewhat contradicted by the fact it the home of the Duponts and a former Vice-President.

The last leg of the Noir Crawl was hosted by David Nemeth. A pleasant curmudgeon with an acerbic wit David assembled a diverse line-up for the go home show. Chris Bauer read an excerpt from his upcoming novel “Jane’s Baby” detailing the conversations that arise between two unique bounty hunters. Lanny Larcinese gave us some pure uncut Philadelphia criminal activity in an excerpt from his novel “I Detest All My Sins.” He delivered it a world-weary voice that you could listen to for hours. Scott Adelberg gave us a story of a man of honor trapped in a dishonorable land in “Jack Waters.” Eryk Pruitt recounted a homeless Texan’s adventure in the seedy world of bare-knuckled boxing on the Emerald Isle in “Knackered.” Ed Kurtz horrified the crowd (in a good way) with a story of a drug smuggler and what she finds when she must retrieve her contraband from the body of her dead partner in “Mules.” Tony Knighton read a story so real and genuine about a dirty cop and his criminal associate I thought I’d have to turn myself in just for hearing it from his novel “Three Hours Past Midnight.” Yours truly read a story about a male stripper who has a bad night after hooking up with a couple of swingers in a story I titled “The Tao of BBC”.

At this point, I feel it would almost be gauche to say that I won the Audience prize for favorite story. So, I won’t. But there is a hatchet with an engraved handle that says “May Noir at the Bar 2018” now sitting on my desk as I write this.

The staff at Stoney’s Pub and Stoney himself were all enthusiastic not only with their service but also with their praise for the writers. I’d go back to Wilmington just for their roast beef.

Best line overheard at the event:
“He has a voice like a radio announcer on a station in Hell.”
A lovely older woman said this after Ed Kurtz finished his story.

I didn’t know quite what to expect for my first multi-state Noir at the Bar Crawl. What I found was a thriving writing community that welcomed me with open arms and strong drinks. Authors from all walks of life gathering together to do what writers love to do even though it sometimes terrifies us. Share our work with the world. This is just a brief snippet of the adventures that were had during a sultry week in May. I’d love to share more but the statute of limitations hasn’t run out yet.

And that hatchet looks mighty nice on my desk.

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