Rockstar Games (aka the creators of the highly popular Grand Theft Auto) recently came out with another video game, titled LA Noire. You might have seen the posters in the subway, with detective Cole Phelps in a three piece suit, wearing his hat at a rakish angle. If not, you probably get the drift. As Mrs. Reagan says to Marlowe in The Big Sleep: “So you’re a private detective… I didn’t know they really existed, except in books. Or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotels.”
In an interesting move, Rockstar has teamed up with Little, Brown’s suspense imprint, Mulholland Books, to develop an e-book collection of short stories mainly inspired by the game with the same title, which is out today. Notable writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, and Lawrence Block, among others, get down and dirty as they expose the underbelly of the city of angels, but Megan Abbott’s lewd opening story might just outdo them all. The collection of eight stories includes original artwork explicitly created for the series, which is featured below. So read on, dear readers, and let us know what you think about this mix of video games, crime fiction, and award-winning authors. Is it lowbrow heaven or merely just another marketing misfire?
The first story, “The Girl,” details the LA Noire character June Ballard, who is drugged at a very unwholesome Hollywood party. Megan Abbott’s clipped sentences evoke the old style of noir, and you are immediately immersed into June’s world as a struggling actress, trying to make it in this cutthroat business. We’re incredibly excited about Abbott’s highly-anticipated new novel, The End of Everything, which comes out next month. The setting is the Midwestern suburbs; a 13-year-old girl’s best friend mysteriously disappears, and terrible secrets come to light in the hunt for her possible kidnapper.
In Lawrence Block‘s “See the Woman” an ex-cop recounts his experience witnessing the aftermath of a bloody domestic abuse case with his partner, Lew, who is shaken up by what they see.
“Naked Angel” by Joe R. Lansdale brings in LA Noire detective Rusty Galloway to solve the case of a woman found in an alleyway, frozen in a large block of ice. Whodunnit? Jealousies abound in this payback tale.
Joyce Carol Oates tackles the back story of the Black Dahlia murder, this time with a young Norma Jeane Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) involved. Elizabeth Short’s stream of consciousness narration closely links her to Monroe — if the cards were different, perhaps Short would be the star, and Monroe would be “flung into the pits of Hell.”
In this story by Francine Prose, the year is 1947 and a down on his luck star turns to a low-budget noir director to give him a break in his upcoming film. The instructions: “Just kill the dame and pick up your check.”
In Jonathan Santlofer’s story, “What’s in a Name,” we get into the mind of a psychopath as he recounts the women in tight, cheap, rayon sweaters who have hurt him in the past. Once rejected, they always get their blood all over his upholstery, just ruining it. He can never get a break, can he?
In “Hell of an Affair” by Duane Sweirczynski, we trail LA Noire character William Shelton into Ray’s Cafe. Shelton is a professional land surveyor: “clean, sober, and deadly accurate.” But when he meets a good looking waitress at Ray’s, he agrees to a date that changes the course of his life forever.
In this last story, “Postwar Boom,” Andrew Vachss presents us with two tough, racist World War II vets who are driving cross-country, on their way to make a hit for their new boss. Vachss brings to life two roughnecks who are still plagued by what they saw abroad as they wax philosophically about race war.
All artwork created by Rockstar Games.