Black on Blonde

Where's the best place in the Twin Cities to murder a drifter?

Like other entries in Akashic's noir series, each story is loosely associated with a particular neighborhood in the Twin Cities, from Frogtown to Linden Hills. Many local landmarks get shoutouts: Runyon's bar, Murray's steakhouse, the Viking Bar, Foshay Tower. "We kind of got lucky, because we didn't tell the authors to write in particular neighborhoods," says Schaper. "We just had them write it and then we figured out where the neighborhoods were. And it worked. It divvied up really nicely between St. Paul and Minneapolis, plus one up north."

The story set "up north" is "Hi, I'm God," by Steven Thayer, author of the crime novels Wolf Pass and The Weatherman. The narrative unwinds in Duluth, chronicling high school student Pudge Abercrombie's violent drowning in Lake Superior. The story then jumps ahead 25 years to when a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Abercrombie hijacks the local television airwaves and declares that he is God.

If Julie Schaper and Steven Horwitz offer to show you their backyard wood chipper, don't say "yes"
Paul Demko
If Julie Schaper and Steven Horwitz offer to show you their backyard wood chipper, don't say "yes"

God opened a desk drawer, pulled out a pack of Marlboro in the box, stuck a cigarette in his mouth, and lit up. He blew a long puff of smoke at the camera. He coughed, a nasty smoker's cough, and then cleared his throat. "I think it's fair to say that you people eat too much, you drink too much, and you watch too much television. And you better cut it out."

Temple was initially reluctant to include a Duluth-based story in a collection that is, after all, titled Twin Cities Noir. "We had Johnny read it," Horwitz recalls. "He read it and he said maybe you can make a couple of references to the Twin Cities. He loved the story."

There was only one commissioned piece that didn't make the cut—Horwitz's own. "Julie read it," he recalls. "She hemmed and hawed a little bit and said, 'I don't think it's noir enough.' We had a little tough time there for a minute or two. That story will see the light of day one of these days."

After finishing our (non-alcoholic) drinks, we wander back over to the Gopher Bar. A rather disheveled gentleman, who looks to have spent many productive hours perched on barstools, is attempting to enter the establishment. Upon realizing that the bar is closed, he mumbles that there is a "private party" going on inside. The bar is, by all appearances, dark and empty. If we strangled him in the parking lot and pried open the door with a crowbar, there's no telling when anyone would find the body.

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