Noir, Polonium, Urban Exploration & Alice Munro (12/13/06)

The illustration comes from Barry Hannah’s “Dark Harvest: On the pleasures of teaching noir, an underdog genre”  in Oxford Magazine’s  Issue 55: Crime and controversy.  (Thanks to Ozarque’s  December 10 post at Live Journal for explaining the discrepancy between the title and that on the cover, “The Dangerous Allure of Crime Noir”.
A while back I sent John Dufresne  my nomination for short story waiting to be written:  “In Canada, a Sequel to an Old Cloak-and-Dagger Story Suspect Could Be ‘Part of the First Post-Soviet Generation’ of Spies for Russia” by Doug Struck of the Washington Post Foreign Service (November 24, 2006; Page A25). He selected it for his post of November 26:
Today’s espionage thriller waiting to be written. (From Beth in Roanoke)  Stir in an ex-KGB operative poisoned with polonium-210.

Yesterday,  Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists sent me his December 12 blog entry for Secrecy News, “Injecting Polonium into Humans”

The apparent murder of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko through polonium poisoning seemed like an outlandish innovation in crime. But it was not the first time that polonium had been deliberately administered to human subjects.

Aftergood provides a copy of  “Polonium Human-Injection Experiments,” Los Alamos Science, Number 23, 1995. with this chilling quote:

 In 1944, in response to concerns for the risk associated with occupational exposures to polonium, the Army Medical Corps authorized a study of the biological behavior of that element. The program wasstarted in August 1944 with animals, and by November, studies with humans had begun. Eventually, tracer amounts of radioactive polonium-210 were injectedinto four hospitalized humans and ingested by a fifth.
That article appeared as a side bar to William Moss and Roger Eckhardt’s paper  a pdf
of which Aftergood also provides.
It’s thanks to John that I learned that Barry Hannah’s article appears  as illustrated above. 
John, himself had his story “The Timing of Unfelt Smiles” (photo, video of reading)  selected to appear in Miami Noir, a  collection of new stories, the 11th book of a series launched in 2004 by  Brooklyn-based Akashic Books.  Sam Hamilton reviewed the volume November 14 in “16 Ways to view Miami’s dark side.” in the Miami Herald.   Other featured cities include Brooklyn, London, Chicago and Dublin.   
Akashic is an independent publisher
dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.

Akashic’s slogan:

reverse-gentrification of the literary world  

Speaking of reverse gentrification,  John featured a photo of an abandoned baby carriage in his hometown’s Worcester (MA) State Hospital  by “Mr. Mott” from the  site Opacity.  It turns out there’s a whole group of people into “urban exploration.” (links to related sites.)  One practicner  is the publisher of the Canadian zine, Infiltration:

about going places you’re not supposed to go.

A good prescription for writers.   It reminds me of this quote from Alice Munro, also via John from   Susan Salter Reynolds (email).  In a  November 5 , 2006 Los Angeles Times feature, “Alice Munro: The author talks about her life and work”  Munroe relates the connection between her own life and that of her character Dahlia, which appears in the story “Fathers” in the collection The View from Castle Rock (Knopf, 368 pp, ISBN: 1400042828 . ) Dahlia’s father beat her and her brother and she dreams of killing him.  Munro tells Reynolds:

My father beat me…I didn’t hate my father, but the beating puzzled me. In my family, you would never speak of these things. In this way, being a writer is a shameful thing. You lay out all this nakedness, all the things they have tried so hard to make clean.


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