“Milwaukee, like so many cities in the Rust Belt, built its identity as a home to manufacturers, a growing immigrant community, and booze. Over the last half century, as jobs disappeared, so did the dreams that came with them.” This is how Tim Hennessy, editor of the anthology titled “Milwaukee Noir,” begins his introduction.
“Milwaukee Noir” is a collection of 14 short stories, all written by Milwaukee natives and residents, that documents fictionalized encounters with the seedy underbelly of the Brew City. Each story takes place in a real Milwaukee neighborhood and, using fictional characters and scenarios, addresses the issues that people living in Milwaukee face.
The short story “Cousins,” by Milwaukee-based author Jennifer Morales, wrestles with the pressing theme of transgender acceptance within the LGBTQ+ community. Most of the remainder of these stories — such as “Runoff” (Valerie Laken),“3rd Street Waltz” (Matthew J Prigee) and “All Dressed in Red” (Vida Cross) — have overt themes of class and racial inequality that shape the actions of the characters and the situations that they find themselves in. According to editor Tim Hennessy, “[these stories] capture the struggle and resilience of the people who live here.”
Although there are settings in the anthology that are likely familiar to non-Milwaukee natives, such as the Summerfest grounds in “Summerfest ‘76” by Reed Farrell Coleman, the majority of the book is set in the ungilded corners of the city. By using the noir genre of literature, this novel successfully fictionalizes the criminal aspects of the city, while still creating a space for social commentary about the issues that allow crime and bad behavior to flourish.
Appearing at the Wisconsin Book Festival, held in Madison from Oct. 17-20, are authors Jenifer Morales, Vida Cross and editor Tim Hennessy. These writers, among other contributors to the novel, will share their inspirations and influences at Central Library.