Alibi V.29 No.10 • March 5-11, 2020 

Art Magnified

The Dark Side of Town

Looking into Santa Fe Noir

Santa Fe Noir
Photo by Clarke Condé

Akashic Books has hit on a formula to bring writers from a place together to tell the darker stories of their city. Delve into the tales from the Twin Cities, Oakland or Mumbai if you want to get a perspective on these places you won’t find on their tourism websites. Santa Fe gets the same treatment in Santa Fe Noir, but what makes Santa Fe Noir different is what makes Santa Fe the City Different. No city in the country is based so completely on mythology. Let’s not forget, they just made up most of that stuff in the plaza to attract tourists.

We have heard from some of these storytellers before and have relied on their perspective to shape our understanding of New Mexico. When Jimmy Santiago Baca offers that, “Mysticism, of one sort or another, abounds in New Mexico” in his short story “Close Quarters,” we don’t need to be convinced. We are already there. That is to say, the stories are accessible, comfortable and familiar. While not necessarily pleasant, locals may see things like finding bodies in the desert as more matter-of-fact than shocking. We have been inoculated and can curl up with Santa Fe Noir saying to ourselves, “Come on, Jimmy. Tell me a good one.”

Known for creating the decidedly urban West Coast parenting magazine Hip Mama in the mid-’90s and her penchant for canceling therapy, Ariel Gore may at first seem an odd choice to edit Santa Fe Noir. She explains her relationship to Santa Fe in the introduction and has taken to the task with care. Her assembly of writers are varied and bring to the book a wide spectrum of perspectives and styles. Santa Fe Noir could have easily gone wrong with a lesser editor veering down the well-trod road of commodified Native and Hispanic stories, but Gore finds us stories about people we know, or think we know, reflected in the shady, more complex moments in Santa Fe. For locals and visitors alike, Santa Fe Noir is a tour guide through the darker side of town.

Santa Fe Noir
Edited by Ariel Gore
Akashic Books