Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Noircon 2014

W.C. Fields's smart-alecky remarks* to the contrary notwithstanding, I love Philadelphia.  It has what all great cities have: great architecture and history, world-class museums, music, and sports teams.  Many lovely restaurants.  And easy connections by air and rail to the rest of the world. 

I went there this past weekend to attend the Saturday session of Noircon—the most headily intellectual of any crime writing conference I have ever been to.  Except for the really intelligent literary critics and professors, most of their confreres write off crime novels with a sneer, a backhanded wave of the hand, and sniffy, “Genre fiction,” as if they were talking about dog poo.  Noir stories are the exception.  Many in academe take very seriously movies and novels that fit into this category.  There were more PhD’s per square foot at Noircon than on the campus of Harvard.  Admittedly the space in the Society Hill Playhouse was small, but you get the idea.

A couple of the presenters were awfully filled up with themselves, one flamingly so—very intent on proving that though he was college professor and the editor of several literary periodicals, he distained everything highbrow, including but not confined to—WASPs, Harvard, wealth, not smoking, and not getting drunk.  But that was just one out of the presenters.  Most were focused on the work as art, not on themselves as artifacts of Noir culture.

I learned a lot about the best of noir fiction and came home with a list of books, some of which I have already bought.

Here are some photos of Philly and of my favorite panels:

 The United States Bank on Chestnut Street, one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country.

One of Philly’s many beautiful squares,

Tom Nolan interviews Fuminori Nakamura, a brilliant young Japanese writer of noir stories.  That is Sam Bett, his interpreter holding the mike. Learn more about Nakamura here.  His book are at the top of the list I brought back.

Ken Wishnia led a panel on Jewish Noir that included Dr. Michael Cooper, Alan Gordon, and Marshal Stein.

The panel of Existential Noir:  where else could you find a writer (William Lashner), a philosophy professor (K.A. Laity), an editor (Paul Oliver), an ex-lover of Norman Mailer (Carole Mallory), and writer battling constant intense physical pain (Fox Dunham) all at the same table?

Noircon is small, but intense.  I am glad I made the trip. 

Annamaria Alfieri

* I once spent a year in Philadelphia, I think it was on a Sunday. - W. C. Fields

First prize was a week in Philadelphia. Second prize was two weeks.” - W. C. Fields

Reportedly Fields wanted his epitaph to be: “
All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia”


  1. Lucky you, Madam World Traveler! Loved your quotes from W.C... Looked up Noircon ... " Where the nitty meets the gritty." I'd have to polish my brain to go to Noircon - tjs

    1. I think your brain is perfectly up to it, TJS. Everyone there was perfectly clad, except for the couple of pretentious jerks. You would have spotted them in one an a half sentences.

  2. So this is the first Noircon I've missed. I enjoyed it in 2012 but it wasn't the same without Robin Hathaway as companion. It's interesting that Carole Mallory is still around and I'm sure I would have recognized most of the usual suspects. I wish I had known you were going because I was in Philly (a mere 15 minute highspeed train ride from my door) a lot this weekend. Oh, well, I am still recuperating to some extent from the knee surgery and the bathroom at the conference is ever a challenge. There's always 2016

    1. I am not sure who said this, but I can agree 100%. The women's bathroom is the only hard (!) evidence I have seen for Freud's theory of penis envy. And NOTHING is the same without Robin.

  3. Oh, I forgot to sign. . I also really like talking to Lou Boxer and Deen Kogan. I have many, many Noircon stories, but they require hand gestures.

  4. I do not feel Robin is away. She comes into my thoughts often - every time I go to Juliano's I think of her... I made her a funny handmade thingy when she won the award in NJ and had a little party for her - invited a good friend who was also an English major at Smith so they could share college memories... I'm not craftwise or handy, but she was real tickled... put the thing in her trophy room... tjs