Eryk Pruitt organized a great night of readings and performances at Bouchercon 2019’s Noir at the Bar. It’s only fitting that this son of Texas returned to Dallas from his exile in North Carolina to put a bullet in the head of Noir at the Bar and kill it.
Mike McCrary was the first to read and he chased out any blue hairs that may have accidentally wandered in with, as Pruitt declared, “an eight-minute-long dick joke”. S.A. Cosby was next up with his Anthony nominated short story, “The Grass Beneath My Feet”. I’ve heard Cosby read this story several times, but tonight was different, maybe it was Pruitt watching him from the corner with a 6.5 mm Carano rifle in his hands or maybe it was something else. Cosby brought down the house.
Following McCrary’s laughs and Cosby’s tears was Hector Acosta, but tonight’s Noir at the Bar was unlike all others I’ve witnessed or organized. Instead of wilting against the pressure of such wonderful stories preceding his, Acosta became a willing accomplice in the killing of Noir at the Bar.
Then Pruitt toyed with his audience’s expectations with a reading by Texas poet Opalina Salas. Before you can complain about the place of poetry at a Noir at the Bar, y’all can shut it as Salas enthralled us all.
I don’t know how J.D. Allen even walked up to the mic after Salas’s reading, but she did, and like Acosta before her, Allen fearlessly killed it. Two more Texans, Kathleen Kent and Terry Shames, were up and, obviously, two more great performances.
Last was Joe Lansdale who could have used his stature of being Joe Fucking Lansdale and phoned it in, but Lansdale took stock of the night and wasn’t taking any prisoners either. Lansdale read his essay “Darkness in the East” and here’s a taste.
“You can’t point at noir and call it one thing, but it usually has some of these elements: existentialist attitude, cynical and desperate characters, wise-ass talk, rain and shadows, a lightning bolt and shadowed blinds, sweaty sheets and cigarette smoke, whiskey breath and dark street corners where shots are fired and a body is found, and long black cars squealing tires as they race around poorly lit corners.”
I don’t know how long Pruitt was planning to kill off Noir at the Bar, but a book convention in Dallas was an appropriate place. Years from now, everyone will say they were there when Noir at the Bar died, but only the hundred or so of us will know the truth.