Phoenix Noir nod from Jason Goodwin in The Telegraph
Jason Goodwin's road trip: Perpetual motion and freeway madness
Jason Goodwin, the novelist, ponders the perpertual motion of Americans in the third of his exclusive online columns from the road.
The cities grow here like mould in a petrie dish: Phoenix is like a speckled rash between the desert bluffs, LA a cat’s cradle of freeways woven between the wooded hills, and even San Francisco, at night, sparkles feverishly around the silent depths of its glorious bay. Apocalypse is a tremor away. Get Ready to Roll say the lamp-post banners In Beverley Hills, reminding you that April is Earthquake Preparedness Month. For the Bay Area, earthquake is not an if, but a when.
You’re not human tonight, Marlowe.
In his superb introduction to an anthology called Phoenix Noir, Patrick Millikin writes that Phoenix “is a city founded on shady development deals, good ol' boy politics, police corruption, organized crime and exploitation of natural resources.” He also points out that “the city recently overtook Philadelphia to become the fifth largest in the country, and the Phoenix metro area now rivals Los Angeles County in size.”
The speed and scale of Phoenix's growth is stupefying: this is, after all, the desert. And the stories Patrick has selected for the anthology are all, in their way, commentaries on that phenomenal explosion, which only occurred after the invention of refrigerated air.
Air conditioning, introduced in the 1950s, made the desert liveable. Before that, Phoenix was a farm town for ranchers, and citrus trees.
It seems awfully precarious. I can't help noticing that there are some unusual ways to die in Phoenix: you can be felled by a gum-tree (they were brought in from Australia, and spread like weeds; but they have very shallow roots). You can die climbing an itty-bitty mountain like Camel Hump. It should take 45 minutes but it's hot up there. You can be swept away in a flash flood – believe me, it happens: the subsoil here is a natural concrete called caliche, and when it rains there's nowhere for the water to run.
You can die in some of the ways explored by the authors in Phoenix Noir, too.