Santa Fe, that hardboiled mountain hamlet

Ariel Gore, editor of the book Santa Fe Noir, which features stories from the dark side

Santa Fe is famous for its sunlight and blue skies. But, like any city thick with politicians, rampant economic stratification, and a rugged, anti-establishment sentiment, there’s bound to be a few shady corners. Santa Fe Noir, a new installment in Akashic Books’ city-by-city Noir series, collects 17 hardboiled crime stories from the City Different, written by emerging writers, as well as such local luminaries as Jimmy Santiago Baca and Miriam Sagan. Edited by Ariel Gore, whose books include The Hip Mama Survival Guide (1998) and We Were Witches (2017), Santa Fe Noir joins dozens of other geographically based collections — Phoenix, Paris, Moscow, and Marrakesh among them.

Gore writes in her introduction that “the stories in this collection reflect a fundamental truth about this city: History depends on who’s telling it. Too often the story of Santa Fe has been told only by the conquerors and the tourism PR firms. In Santa Fe Noir, you will hear the voices of the others.”

Because each story is identified by the neighborhood or specific location in which it takes place, Santa Fe Noir is a veritable road map of the city and surrounding area. It stretches from El Dorado to the Southside, Casa Solana and Cerrillos Road to the Santa Fe National Forest. The protagonists of the stories are psychotherapists, vagrants, teenagers, and gig workers. They drink and smoke. They drop acid and have sex. And more than a few are guilty of murder (or at least of justifiable homicide).

In Ana June’s “The Night of the Flood,” a blackjack dealer must come to terms with a long-ago accident that happened during the burning of Zozobra. June, who lives in Belen, grew up in Santa Fe. She writes with a sure hand and practiced hindsight about a cynical visitor’s experience.

“It’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen my Aunt Mimi. Fifteen years since the summer I spent at her hippie, armpit-smelling house in Santa Fe ‘drying out and finding my mystery again.’ Bunch of hippie bullshit, really, that involved doing yoga with her students daily … and eating plants.” Later in the story, the speaker has an encounter with La Llorona — the wailing spirit woman who wanders the river, looking for her children — that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Gore and Santa Fe Noir writers read from the book at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema (418 Montezuma Ave.). Admission is $5, $20 includes a book; 505-466-5528, jeancocteaucinema.com.

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