Saturday I had the pleasure of listening to eight impressive authors read their own work at DCs Wonderland Ballroom. This was my fifth Noir at the Bar event, hosted as always by E.A. Aymar, and this was surely the best yet.
The bar is always full for these readings and the audience is tasked with choosing whose story and reading were the best. The shot at bragging rights seems to attract the cream of local talent.
James Grady opened the evening with a reading from his first novel, Six Days of the Condor, the bestseller that was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford. Screenplays, articles and a dozen or so novels followed, but the prose in the first book seemed as fresh as anything written this year.
David Swinson’s tale of undercover police surveillance was a gritty slice of reality taken from his 16 years of experience as a DC cop. When he reads you can feel the streets as if you’re there right then.
Alan Orloff’s chilling story of a man dealing with bizarre nightmares had the kind of twist ending that one does not quickly forget. No surprise. Having won a Derringer Award and being nominated for another and placing a story in the Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, I knew he was a master of the short story form.
Art Taylor’s exceptional story, “Premonition” closed the show, and plunged us into silence. Art has won just about every award there is for short fiction and with this story he proved why.
We also heard truly great stories from Erica Wright (whose point of view character was a fox), John Copenhaver who reminded us how scary clowns are) and Kathleen Barber (whose “Follow Me made us want to.) But…
The night’s audience favorite was Cheryl Head, whose story of a drug mule’s journey was gripping and terrifying, while making you feel the POV character’s pain and sorrow while accepting her fate. It’s no surprise that her first novel, Long Way Home, was a finalist both in Historical and African American literature in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I went home with a copy of Cheryl’s latest triumph, JudgeMe When I’m Wrong. You should too. Like, today!
Every one of these great writers is worth searching out for your future reading pleasure. And I can’t wait for the next Noir at the Bar experience.