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Queens Chronicle

‘Queens Noir’ Puts A Sinister Spin On The Borough

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Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2008 12:00 am

Nineteen authors from Queens and beyond put a sinister spin on the borough in Akashic Book’s latest noir series release. Following in the footsteps of their Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan predecessors, the authors featured in “Queens Noir” delight in profiling the borough’s seedier elements.

The anthology is split into three parts, providing a loose geographic jaunt through Queens, beginning at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park and ending up in Jamaica.

Many of the book’s stories have familiar noir characters, from smart cops and jaded private investigators to the small-time criminals and ruthless murderers they’re tailing. Others take a different approach, providing an entryway into the minds of cynical, suspicious protagonists

The first section, Queens on the Fly: By Sea, Horse, Train, Plane and Silver Screen, features stories set at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Aqueduct Racetrack, the No. 7 train and Silver Cup Studios in Long Island City.

Author Maggie Estep’s “Alice Fantastic” follows a hardened gambler — looking to “shake off” some undesirable aspects of her life — to Aqueduct, where the major action isn’t just on the track.

Jackson Heights native Joseph Guglielmelli sets his tale, “Buckner’s Error,” on a different track, along the No. 7 line headed toward Shea Stadium. As two strangers chat idly about the big game, readers begin to get a sense of eminent danger.

Fear and suspicion take center stage in Patricia King’s “Baggage Claim,” which puts readers into the mind of a traveler paralyzed by her vices on a plane trip home post-Sept. 11.

Jill Eisenstadt also uses a real event as the jumping off point for her fictional story “Golden Venture,” which references the arrival of a boat of Chinese refugees in the Rockaway in the early 1990s.

The book’s second part, Old Queens, takes readers on a journey into the borough’s past. Forest Hills author Megan Abbott describes the growing confusion of a young girl as she witnesses threatening encounters (and finds herself powerless to stop them) at the bowling alley where her mother works.

Alan Gordon’s “Bottom of the Sixth” steers readers over to nearby Rego Park, where a team of undercover cops looks to catch their man at a little league baseball game.

In “Last Stop, Ditmars,” by Tori Carrington (the pen name for authors Lori and Tony Karayianni), readers follow a private investigator on a murder case during the summer of 2006 — the year a massive blackout left over 100,000 Queens residents without power during a heat wave.

In the book’s final section, Foreign Shores, culturally rich areas like Jackson Heights’ South Asian enclave and Corona’s Hispanic section set the scene for more menacing action.

Shailly Agnihotri’s “Avoid Agony” follows an astrologer with strange intentions practicing his craft in Jackson Heights. K.j.a. Wishnia returns to the more traditional noir tale in “Viernes Loco,” where Corona P.I. Filomena Buscarsela tracks a counterfeit case that threatens to take her investigation closer to home than she would like.

Whitestone resident Jillian Abbott’s “Jihad Sucks; or, The Conversion of the Jews,” introduces hesitant jihadist Ramzi Saleh as he works under the radar out of Richmond Hill — and unexpectedly discovers he’s beginning to like certain aspects of his new home. Abbot is also a Queens Chronicle contributor.

Belinda Farley’s “The Investigation” leaves readers in Jamaica, on the case of a suspicious late-night call that comes in to a rookie reporter at a Queens weekly paper. Thinking he has the scoop, Edwin Stuckley gets more than he bargained for as he quickly becomes embroiled in the odd “investigation.”

Carefully selected by editor Robert Knightly, a Jackson Heights resident and former New York City police officer, the stories that comprise Queens Noir paint a grim picture of the borough’s dark underbelly. Local readers will certainly delight — and fear — just how close to home these stories hit.

To find out more about Queens Noir, visit www.akashicbooks.com.It is available for $15.95 at most book stores.

Several Queens Library events beginning this month and running through February give readers the chance to Knightly and several of the book’s authors, who will be on hand to talk about their stories and read selections from the book. Books will be available for sale and signing.

Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.

Join Knightly, Denis Hamill and Kim Sykes at the Queens Library’s Central Branch, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica. (718) 990-0778.

Saturday, Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m.

Join Knightly, Shailly Agnihotri, Joseph Guglielmelli and K.j.a. Wishnia at the Queens Library’s Jackson Heights Branch, located at 35-51 81st St. (718) 899-2500.

Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.

Join Knightly, Victoria Eng, Jillian Abbott and Guglielmelli at the Queens Library’s Flushing Branch, located at 41-17 Main Street. (718) 661-1200.

Saturday, Feb. 9 at 2 p.m.

Join Knightly, Alan Gordon and Megan Abbott at the Queen’s Library’s Forest Hills Branch, located at 108-19 71st Ave. (718) 268-7934.

Saturday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m.

Join Knightly, Liz Martinez, Jill Eisenstadt and Abbott at the Queens Library’s Woodside Branch, located at 54-22 Skillman Ave. (718) 429-4700.

Welcome to the discussion.