New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers
Edited by Joyce Carol Oates

book cover
Editor: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Akashic Books
Year: 2019
Pages: 234

Joyce Carol Oates, a queenpin of the noir genre, has brought her keen and discerning eye to the curation of an outstanding anthology of brand-new top-shelf short stories (and poems by Margaret Atwood!).

While bad men are not always the victims in these tales, they get their due often enough to satisfy readers who are sick and tired of the gendered status quo, or who just want to have a little bit of fun at the expense of a crumbling patriarchal society. This stylistically diverse collection will make you squirm in your seat, stay up at night, laugh out loud, and inevitably wish for more.


Cover and interior artwork by Laurel Hausler.


Contents

Introduction: Female Noir by Joyce Carol Oates

Part I: Their Bodies, Our Selves

  • One of These Nights by Livia Llewellyn
  • A History of the World in Five Objects by S.J. Rozan
  • The Hunger by Lisa Lim
  • Too Many Lunatics by Lucy Taylor
  • Please Translate by Edwidge Danticat

Part II: A Doom of One’s Own

  • The Boy without a Bike by Jennifer Morales
  • An Early Specimen by Elizabeth McCracken
  • OBF, Inc. by Bernice L. McFadden
  • Firetown by Aimee Bender
  • Thief by Steph Cha

Part III: Manslaying

  • Impala by S.A. Solomon
  • Mothers, We Dream by Cassandra Khaw
  • Il Grifone by Valerie Martin
  • Miss Martin by Sheila Kohler
  • Six Poems by Margaret Atwood
  • Assassin by Joyce Carol Oates

About the Contributors

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Man Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Man Booker Prize; and her most recent, The Heart Goes Last. She lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.

Aimee Bender is the author of five books, including The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, a New York Times Notable Book, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, recipient of a SCIBA Book Award. Her short fiction has been published in Granta, Harper’s, the Paris Review, and more, and heard on This American Life and Selected Shorts. She lives in Los Angeles, and teaches creative writing at USC.

Steph Cha is the author of Follow Her Home, Beware Beware, and Dead Soon Enough. Her fourth and latest novel is Your House Will Pay. She is the noir editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. She lives in her native city of Los Angeles with her husband and two basset hounds.

Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, and Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, as well as the novels-in-stories The Dew Breaker and Claire of the Sea Light. She is also the editor of Haiti Noir, Haiti Noir 2: The Classics, and The Best American Essays 2011. Her most recent book is The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story.

Laurel Hausler is a painter, sculptor, illustrator, and photographer from the DC area. Her work portrays dark and mysterious tableaux of the female experience in an uncertain world. For more information, visit laurelhausler.com.

Cassandra Khaw is a scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal. Her work can be found in F&SF, Lightspeed, Tor.com, and Strange Horizons. She has also contributed to titles such as Sunless Skies, Fallen London, Wasteland 3, and She Remembered Caterpillars. Her first novella, Hammers on Bone, was nominated for a Locus Award and the British Fantasy Award. Her most recent novel, Food of the Gods, was nominated for a Locus Award.

Sheila Kohler is the author of ten novels, three volumes of short fiction, and most recently a memoir, Once We Were Sisters. She has won two O. Henry prizes, and has been included in The Best American Short Stories twice. Her work has been published in thirteen countries, and she teaches at Columbia and Princeton. Her novel Cracks was made into a film directed by Jordan Scott, Ridley Scott’s daughter.

Lisa Lim is a comic storyteller born and raised in Queens, New York. Her graphic stories have been featured in Guernica, PANK, and Mutha. She is also the illustrator of a children’s book called Soma So Strange. Her comics can be found at lisalimcomics.com.

Livia Llewellyn’s fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. Her short story collections Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors and Furnace were both nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection. You can find her online at liviallewellyn.com.

Valerie Martin is the author of eleven novels, including Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property, four collections of short fiction, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. She has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the Kafka Prize and an Orange Prize. Martin resides in Dutchess County, New York, and is currently a professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.

Elizabeth McCracken is the author of six books, including Bowlaway, her most recent. She has received grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, among other accolades. Thunderstruck & Other Stories won the 2015 Story Prize. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, the writer and illustrator Edward Carey, and their children.

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Sugar, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), Glorious, The Book of Harlan (winner of a 2017 American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction), and Praise Song for the Butterflies. She is a four-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist.

Jennifer Morales is a poet, fiction writer, and performance artist based in rural Wisconsin. Her story “Cousins” appeared in Milwaukee Noir. Her first book, Meet Me Halfway, a short story collection about life in hypersegregated Milwaukee, was the Wisconsin Center for the Book’s 2016 Book of the Year. Morales is president of the board of the Driftless Writing Center in Viroqua, Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.moraleswrites.com.

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. She is the editor of New Jersey Noir and Prison Noir and a recipient of the National Book Award, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Humanities Medal, and a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and was recently inducted into the American Philosophical Society.

S.J. Rozan is the author of fifteen novels, more than seventy-five short stories, and the editor of two anthologies, including Bronx Noir. She has won multiple prizes, such as the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity awards; the Japanese Maltese Falcon; and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Rozan was born in the Bronx and lives in lower Manhattan.

Lucy Taylor’s work has most recently appeared in the collection Spree and Other Stories and in the anthologies Endless Apocalypse, The Beauty of Death II: Death by Water, Monsters of Any Kind, and Tales from the Lake Volume 5. Taylor’s novelette Sweetlings was on the final ballot for the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards in the category of nonfiction. Her Stoker Award–winning novel, The Safety of Unknown Cities, is being published in German by Festa Verlag.


Reviews

Rae Padilla Francoeur, Salem Gazette, November 1, 2019, page B2
5 stars
“One of These Nights” by Livia Llewellyn has more shocking twists than most full-length mystery novels and they spring, like goblins, when you least expect it. But the protagonists are not goblins, they are adolescent best girlfriends with a dangerous, sly agenda. Lisa Lim’s graphic story, “The Hunger,” is about a young woman, Lilly, who has skin “as tough as beef jerky.” She deals harsh justice, unperturbed. This collection is exceptional …

Yvonne Klein, Reviewing the Evidence, December 2019
4 stars
The fifteen stories are accompanied by several of Margaret Atwood’s early poems, an inspired choice on Oates’ part. The reader will be well-advised to read the stories in the order they appear rather than dipping in and out as one commonly does with collections. If she does, she will notice an underlying narrative of increasing awareness of the female condition and a growing determination to shatter its constraints. It’s a narrative that concludes with Oates’ own gripping “Assassin,” which she describes as “a surrealist excursion into the dark places of the (female) heart.” Here the titular assassin grasps the severed head of her perceived oppressor and announces, “I am thinking, and when I am finished thinking, I will know more clearly what to do, and I am not taking orders from you, my man, or from any man ever again.”

Carol Haggas, Booklist, November 15, 2019
4 stars
In crime fiction, the preponderance of narrative, action, and authorship is male, with women being the victim more often than the perpetrator, and men serving as the force behind these ill intentions. Oates’ stellar anthology of female noir turns this equation on its head, collecting new work by 16 notable female authors, including Oates herself, to demonstrate what happens when women are in charge…. Taken as a whole, the collection is a surreal yet satisfying journey into the darker side of the female consciousness, a book that, for all its murk and mayhem, celebrates feminine strength, cunning, and determination.

Anjanette Delgado, New York Journal of Books, November 2019
4 stars
One of the best things about Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, is that it is so very Joyce Carol Oates, every story imbued with that sneaky, creepy, human, usually-male-but-not-always-sometimes-female-and-when-female-it’s-the-man’s-fault darkness that begins with dread, escalates for pages, and then happens just as we feared, but not before it shows us something else, something we were not expecting.

Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2019
4 stars
The 15 stories and six poems in this slim yet weighty all-original noir anthology—contributors include Margaret Atwood and Edwidge Danticat—are razor-sharp and relentless in their portrayal of life, offering snapshots of dysfunction, everyday toil, and brief joy…. Though the compilation is often bleak and disturbing (Cassandra Khaw’s “Mothers, We Dream” comes to mind), it is also startlingly imaginative in characterization and setting, and at times wickedly funny (cue Bernice L. McFadden’s “OBF, Inc.”).

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2019
4 stars
“Is there a distinctive female noir?” asks Oates in her introduction. This collection may not settle that question, but it goes a long way toward supplying candidates for an emerging canon.


Image: “Bad Debs” by Laurel Hausler


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