Like Young's last book, Jelly's Blues, a series of sweet and lowdown licks in the vein of the great Jelly Roll Morton, Black Maria is essentially an homage—only this time its to film noir. Turning phrases left and right, spangling his story with the occasional rhyming couplet, Young manages to evoke noir's familiar conventions without simply duplicating contours. Like many private investigators, Jones is basically a drunk, but in Young's voice he has a “bachelors in Bourbon” and an aching heart.
He has seen too much human unkindness to know better then to mess around with this no-good woman. “If despair had a sound,” he drawls, “it would be: DO NOT DISTURB.” And yet he presses on, “Wisdom this tooth/aching I want removed.” It's a testament to Young's narrative gusto that we practically reach inside this delicious read to supply the pliers.