Richard Thomas “The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology” Review

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Reviews
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The New Black


Publisher: Dark House Press

Length: 344 Pages

Review copy provided by editor in exchange for an honest review

The New Black is an anthology of 20 neo-noir stories edited by author Richard Thomas, who is the editor for Dark House Press and a columnist for Litreactor. I will be totally honest and admit that prior to reading Laird Barron’s stellar foreword “Eye of The Raven”, I had no idea what the neo-noir genre was all about. I had a general idea, but I didn’t have any prior experience with this genre of literature. After reading Barron’s forward and Richard Thomas’ introduction, I was eager to explore the darkness contained within the pages of The New Black.

The anthology kicks off with a bang with Stephen Graham Jones’ haunting “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit”. The story focuses on a young boy and his father as they struggle for survival in the wild during a harsh winter. The boy keeps telling him about a rabbit named Slaney, a seemingly immortal rabbit that has been feeding the boy and his father throughout their stay in the woods. It is a bleak story with an ending that will stick with you long after you finish reading.

“It’s Against The Law To Feed The Ducks” by Paul Tremblay is a portrait of a family as they spend a summer vacation together when an apocalyptic event breaks out. Everyone in the town surrounding Lake Winnipesauke seems to have disappeared without explanation. However, that is what made this story so enjoyable. Tremblay’s story is less about discovering the truth behind the apocalypse, but rather the strain the events puts on the family in what used to be an idyllic setting. As the events begin to unfold and the family shifts into survival mode, you begin to see a subtle change in the parents’ personalities. However, despite the bleak situation they find themselves in, they still manage to cling to their humanity and provide for their children and protect them from the harsh realities of their new world.

The stories in The New Black span many genres, but some of the stories do share a lot of DNA with traditional horror. There is Micaela Morrissette’s “The Familiars”, a story about a little boy and his imaginary friend. However, this imaginary friend is not like the ones you may remember from your childhood. He lives under the boy’s bed and he seems to grow from the shadows that lurk there. The boy and his friend create shadow puppets and play make-believe in the boy’s treehouse, which makes their relationship seem like a harmless childhood friendship. However, the imaginary friend seems to harbor an edge of darkness and possibly even evil.

“Dollhouse” by Craig Wallwork is a creepy tale of a girl named Darcy, who feels little fear due to her father telling her everything can be explained. Which is why none of the noises that reverberate through the family’s cottage bother her, particularly the loud bang that led her to discover the replica of her home in the attic. Despite the additions to the dollhouse every time she sneaks up to the attic to look at it and the shadow she sees moving in the attic, Darcy still clings to the idea that there is a rational explanation for everything. However, it quickly becomes clear that not everything can be explained and something sinister is lurking in Darcy’s attic.

Brian Evenson’s “Windeye” closes out The New Black and is one of my favorite stories of the collection. It focuses on a brother and sister and the closeness they shared as kids which began fading away when the brother discovers a mysterious window on the outside of their home. His sister was more detail oriented and never really notices that there is something off about the house as a whole until he leads her towards the discovery. There is one more window visible on the outside of their home than there is from the inside. This seemingly mundane discovery leads to an earth shattering revelation that impacts the pair forever. This story sort of reminded me of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, particularly the sections that focused on The Navidson Record. There is something deeply unsettling about the discovery of a mysterious addition to your home that you can’t explain. A home is supposed to be a place that is safe and familiar and Evenson’s decision to warp that sense of security makes for a creepy read.

There is a lot of diversity to be found in The New Black, which mixes in neo-noir elements with many other genres. While I obviously enjoyed the stories that had a horror bent, a few of my favorite stories would fall into other genres. Craig Davidson’s “Rust and Bone” is a powerful story about a boxer who brawls in underground boxing matches with no rules while recounting his life story and the role boxing has played in it. The story jumps around from his current match against a hulking man named Nicodemus and his past as an up-and-coming boxer whose dreams shatter in an instant. Roy Kesey’s “Instituto” follows a man who enters a program developed for him by a mysterious group of people known only as “perfeccionadores”, who slowly begin to improve his physical appearance and possessions. However, even with all the improvements in his life, the man quickly learns that some things are more important than having flawless skin and a perfect house.

The New Black is an excellent collection and features stories from authors I am familiar with – Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger and Craig Davidson to name a few – as well as a slew of new voices I eagerly look forward to reading in the future. Some of the stories may not appeal to everyone, but the talent and diversity displayed in this collection make it a worthy addition to any dark fiction fan’s bookshelf.

Rating: 4/5


Dark House Press Official Website 

Purchase The New Black on Amazon


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