Noir at the Bar Durham II – June 18, 2015

Noir at the bar Durham 2

Coming to Town: Nathan Ballingrud for "Noir at the Bar" at 106 Main in Durham


Samuel Montgomery Blinn - June 18, 2015

Thursday, June 18 at 6:30 pm, Downtown Durham's 106 Main hosts the city's second Noir at the Bar event, with eight authors of dark fiction from across North Carolina holding court over drinks to talk about their work, including Durham's Eryk Pruitt (Dirtbags, Hashtag) and Chapel Hill's Jeremy Hawkins (The Last Days of Video), as well as Asheville's Nathan Ballingrud who took the time for an email interview ahead of tonight's event. Ballingrud is the author of the award-winning 2013 collection North American Lake Monsters (Small Beer Press) and the recently-released novella The Visible Filth (This Is Horror). Listening to Ballingrud read his story "The Good Husband" from North American Lake Monsters at Quail Ridge Books a couple years back, I could feel my chest tightening, my breath straining, my stomach clenching. He infuses his work with such realism and dread, an unease born of infidelity, weakness and inadequacy, of irrevocable violence, of disconnect, of inevitable mistakes, of decay. Whether grounded in the everyday dirt of reality or, as he does as well as anyone I've read ever has, on that rusted knife's edge between our reality and another which lurks, ever-present even if not mentioned directly, under the surface, just out of your peripheral vision, or even in your own mind. The Visible Filth combines elements of crime fiction and The Weird, with nods to books like Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow and films like Koji Suzuki's The Ring, as bartender Will deals with the aftermath of a fight and a misplaced cell phone. I'm looking forward to catching up with Nathan, Eryk, and Jeremy, and meeting the rest of the fantastic lineup that Eryk has put together for this one. See you there!

Read the interview



Eryk Pruitt - June 17, 2015

So many moments resonate with the writer when publishing her or his book. Typing "The End." Or that first rejection letter (I framed mine). The fiftieth rejection letter. The first acceptance letter (also framed). The first blurb (Will Millar, author of Infernal Machine said: "Fearless, unflinching, and gut wrenching. You're not going to want to put it down."). Pub day (meh). The first time you hold an actual copy in your hands (and smell it). Your first Amazon review...

However, none of those moments hold a candle to your first Noir at the Bar.

Imagine this, you're standing in a room full of bar patrons, all holding drinks in their hands. Thank god you've had a couple or there's no way you'd make it through this. It's one thing to talk shit to some one-star review on the computer screen, but it's a whole different matter when someone can punch you in the face. How in the world are you supposed to know if what you've written has offended someone? This is why they call them trigger warnings and those are all over the internet these days. What if I say the word that activates someone's trigger? What if some sentence scuttling forth from my mouth sends some well-meaning citizen into some regressive phase of their therapy, which had been going so well until I thought it would be clever to share the story of a gas station stickup man with a yearning for a killer social media platform, or a hell-bent tweaker with curious sexual politics? What if some faithful reader equates reading my book with a punch in the gut, and feels it's time to reciprocate? What if somebody in that audience simply doesn't like the cut of my jib.

Bartender (his name is Mike and he owns the place, you'll want to know this...), another drink please.

(I drink Maker's and ice... you should know that as well)

But before we get slammed, I have to say Noir at the Bar is the coolest thing I've ever heard of. It started in Philadelphia, but was perfected in St. Louis by fictioneers Jedidiah Ayres (Peckerwood) and Scott Phillips (The Ice Harvest, Hop Alley). Since then, they have spread the infection to cities across the country, from Los Angeles to New Orleans to Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Philly, NYC...

My first one happened to be the first one in Durham. It drove me nuts to watch all the kids in other cities have all the fun, so I sent an email to Jed in St. Louis and asked him how to get one out here. He said, "You got to organize it yourself." So I did. With his help, we got seven writers from four different states to come out (Noir at the Bar Durham) and read and I had a blast. I got to hang with Steve Weddle, whose Country Hardball was one of the best books I'd read in a long while. I got to eat ribs at 2am with Grant Jerkins, Charles Dodd White and Peter Farris. These are all dudes on my bookshelf, so ain't that just peaches?

But the biggest kick is the opportunity to talk to readers. And I'm not talking about through Amazon reviews or Goodreads or Yelping or comments in the blog (and the replies from my dummy account)... I'm talking old school. Face-to-face interaction. I don't know what you do for a living, but I write things, which means I spend a lot of time alone. A lot of time. The other day, I got into an argument with my cat over what I was making myself for dinner. That much time alone. So I'm happy as hell to have a beer (or a Maker's) with some folks who like to read. Even more so with folks who may have read something I have written (and showed up anyway). And, to make it easier for you, we've arranged this meeting in a public, semi-lit space with several witnesses, just in case things get a touch... randy.

Keep in mind, this public, semi-lit space is a bar, and not the public library. This is by design. At the public library, they might frown on things said aloud which, while appropriate in publications with names such as Thuglit and Out of the Gutter and All Due Respect and Swill, may not be suitable for folks who visit a library after reasonable drinking hours. The second installment of Noir at the Bar features writers whose works include Visible Filth (Nathan Ballingrud) and Nothing But Scooter Trash (TR Zeleznock). While we also have some responsible folk in the lineup – I'm looking at Eric Martin and Bryan Gilmer here – there are no guarantees. The last one I did was in Baltimore and riots broke out the very next day. Noir at the Bar Baltimore

The second version has a blues musician (David Terrenoire) and a former Florida reporter (Bryan Gilmer). We've got a film producer (John Saunders) and a bookseller (Jeremy Hawkins). We've got two Eric's, (Eric Martin and Eryk Pruitt) which I believe sets the modern-day record with Noirs at the Bar. We've got trivia, we've got giveaways, we've got prizes. Folks are bringing books to sell, so bring cash. Mike Bourquin at 106 Main has a bar stocked with Krupnikas and local beer and that bourbon liqueur people keep saying is good, go on drink it, no matter how many times I ask them what kind of bourbon they put in there and nobody knows the answer. Best of all, we have good times, plenty of them.

I strongly encourage folks to plan their vacations around these things. Find one near you and check it out. Discover a new writer or an old pro with a dozen books. Kick back and let folks tell you a story. A rowdy one. Libraries and bookstores and salons and coffee shops are great and I love them and am useless without them, but let's face it: Some of these stories were written in bars, so don't you think they ought to be read in them?