SLOW BEAR by Anthony Neil Smith and Fahrenheit Press
I write “noir” but I can count the number of modern books that fall under that genre currently on my bookshelf with one hand. Probably. I’m a big fan of the Black Lizard paperbacks, have collected a large sampling of Hard Case Crime. But I just haven’t found the modern 2020’s equivalent to those brutal, nihilistic stories of yesteryear.
Until, I read Slow Bear, that is.
Noir is a strange beast. Everyone has their own definitions of what fits the criteria. For me, the criteria for Noir are themes of loss, betrayal and darkness. There’s always an outsider protagonist on the ropes but not ready to go down without a fight.
I believe of all the books that have been published in the last few years Anthony Niel Smith’s SLOW BEAR is the penultimate modern noir novel and doesn’t just tick every single box of noir criterion but punches holes right through every single one.
Micah Slow Bear Cross is the quintessential noir protagonist. A one-armed, ex- reservation cop, down on his luck with a very blurred sense of what is right or wrong. He’s not a tough talking, womanizer like some hackneyed protagonists of pulp detective novels, but shares many more traits with the self-doubting, slightly insecure, transgressive ‘losers’ of Noir’s twin brother Dirty Realism. He’s constantly getting the shit kicked out of him, fucking up, making very questionable decisions, and doing the wrong thing. But the reader can’t help but become completely endeared to this complex, complicated character calling himself Slow Bear.
After losing his arm in the line of duty, raiding a meth lab, and retiring, he spends his time hanging out at a casino bumming drinks and handing out terribly advice for chips. When fate kicks him in the balls and a bad choice leads to worse choices Micah Cross finds himself exiled from the reservation and barely treading water in a landscape so bleak it makes Fargo’s settings look warm and hospitable. He finds his only sources of solace and meaning in the companionship of the casino barmaid Kylie who is later kidnapped by sex-traffickers sparking an oil-slick race against time and a shotgun blast ending to a modern noir classic.
As an avid reader of crime fiction and a writer myself I really can’t recommend Anthony Neil Smith’s work enough.
If you haven’t read SLOW BEAR yet, why the hell not?
5 Punk Noir Stars