Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 31, 2020

Queens Noir

Filed under: Counterpunch,literature — louisproyect @ 2:59 pm


As a long-time fan of Nordic Noir detective stories, I never expected to see a home-grown version. You might call Michael Elias’s “You Can Go Home Now” Queens Noir since it is set mostly in that dreary stretch of two-story houses and strip malls that will be familiar to anybody who has left Manhattan on their way to the airport. I confess never having stepped foot in this wasteland and only know it as the place that Archie Bunker personified in the 1960s and 70s. I even wonder if Elias knows this area except as a background for his breakthrough novel. To render it accurately might have taken the same kind of dedication that would go into a story about a serial killer in the French Riviera, except with a lot less opportunity to savor local restaurants. For some of the characters in “You Can Go Home Now”, McDonald’s is a night on the town.

Written in the first person singular, “You Can Go Home Now” tells the story of Nina Karim, a cop working in the Long Island City police department. Like just about every cop featured in a Nordic Noir novel or a TV series based on one, Karim is not typical. She reads the refined short stories of V.S. Pritchett rather than the pulp fiction of V.C. Andrews that is ubiquitous to airport bookstores. After Andrews died, a novelist named Andrew Neiderman became her ghostwriter and a very successful one at that. I should add that Neiderman and Elias were a few classes ahead of mine in Fallsburg Central High school in upstate New York.

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  1. Your mischaracterization of Queens as some culinary wasteland is laughably wrong these days. Astoria (on the way to the airport from upper Manhattan) is probably the best foodie neighborhood in NYC now. Leaving Manhattan for the airport from Midtown will take you into the new metropolis of LIC, where Amazon recently attempted to colonize, and which now has numerous upscale bars, fancy grocery stores etc.

    The area close to the airport is, however, much like the areas near many US airports.

    Comment by Mark Sage — August 1, 2020 @ 1:32 pm

  2. Astoria is totally gentrified. The novel is set deeper into Queens.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 1, 2020 @ 1:52 pm

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