In George Pelecanos’s Washington, every bar is smoky, every dame a looker, and “mug” refers to a guy with a .38, not a latte at Starbucks.
Pick up a copy of the book D.C. Noir, a $14.95 compilation of stories by area Mickey Spillanes edited by noirmeister Pelecanos, and prepare to be transported to a different DC than the tourists see.
The 16 authors—all but two male—range from novelist James Grady and former Green Beret Robert Andrews to Quintin Peterson, a 24-year DC police veteran, and Lester Irby, who spent 30 years in prison before being paroled.
While some of the stories could be set anywhere, others are pure Washingtoniana.
A map at the beginning, marked by corpses, tells where each of the stories is set. Most are in rough neighborhoods ranging from Petworth to Congress Heights, with some Capitol Hill, K Street, and Georgetown action thrown in.
In the introduction, Pelecanos argues that the noir genre is a good way for the city to examine itself and the disparities between page three of the Washington Post’s Style section, where the celebrity gossip is, and page three of the Metro section, where the crime briefs are.
Noir, he writes, “allows us to explore social issues and the strengths and frailties of humanity that are a part of our everyday lives.”