Karen’s Killer Book Bench: DENVER NOIR, Akashic Noir Series #ShortStory #Anthology by 14 Authors #Edited by Cynthia Swanson

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Akashic Noir Series

By Peter Heller, Barbara Nickless, Mario Acevedo, Francelia Belton, R. Alan Brooks, D.L. Cordero, Amy Drayer, Twanna LaTrice Hill, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, Subramanian, David Heska Wanbli Weiden,  & Erika T. Wurth

Edited by Cynthia Swanson


Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Denver enters the Noir Series arena with a wide range of mile-high misgivings and perils.

From the introduction by Cynthia Swanson:

“Even a city that boasts three hundred days of sunshine a year has its sudden, often violent storms—and writers have long taken advantage of that metaphor. Renowned authors Katherine Anne Porter, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Rex Burns, Robert Greer, Michael Connelly, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine—among many others—have brilliantly portrayed this picturesque but often merciless city. Today, Denver is home to a thriving literary scene, with writers of all stripes finding inspiration in its people and streets. The authors and stories featured in Denver Noir are no exception . . .

Editing Denver Noir, working with this talented group of writers, has been one of the highlights of my career. Fans of noir and Denver devotees alike, I invite you into this journey of our Mile High City, our home beside the mountains, our capital of sunshine and darkness, optimism and anguish.”

Akashic Noir Series

By Peter Heller, Barbara Nickless, Mario Acevedo, Francelia Belton, R. Alan Brooks, D.L. Cordero, Amy Drayer, Twanna LaTrice Hill, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, Subramanian, David Heska Wanbli Weiden,  & Erika T. Wurth

Edited by Cynthia Swanson

As the editor of Denver Noir, I was blown away by the stories contributed to the volume. Below is a sampling of each.


Driving under the influence, possession of narcotics, divorces, and custody actions—these cases were my bread and butter. A far cry from my dreams as a kid on the Rosebud Reservation of pursuing social justice for Native Americans, but I’d learned back in law school that a white knight job as a public interest lawyer required a trust fund or wealthy spouse, especially when your monthly student loan payments rivaled the GDP of many small countries.

– David Heska Wanbli Weiden, “Colfax and Havana”

He was a large man, blond, with closecropped hair that marked him as ex-military, but the fleshiness of his face and the protuberance of his gut told her that had been some years ago.

“We’re with the Denver Police Department,” he said, holding up the badge around his neck.

Don’t be nervous, LaVonda thought.

– Twanna LaTrice Hill, “A Life of Little Consequence”

August believed, as do I, that regardless of circumstances, the dead deserve to lie peacefully. They should be disturbed only in the most dire of situations. If a body must be moved, it should be done properly and with reverence.

– Cynthia Swanson, “Pieces of Everyone, Everywhere”

Now I was back to solve a crime. Another Indian woman dead, like so many others in our communities, no one but her mom giving a shit. Not the cops. Not her dad, who hadn’t been seen in a decade. No one else but me, a woman whose face, though allowed to grow much more cynical with age, so resembled hers.

– Erika T. Wurth, “Tough Girls”

I love where I live but here’s a confession: I have never really known what I was supposed to do in my life. Or whom I should listen to. Should I listen to myself? I always seemed to get in trouble that way.

– Peter Heller, “The Lake”

See—when someone doesn’t fully recognize your humanity—they’re more likely to believe in some type of Black mystique—which means they’re trying to fulfill a fantasy.

And I’m nobody’s fantasy.

– R. Alan Brooks, “A Baker’s Duckling”

Even South Broadway is on the slate to get overrun by dog-loving craft beer drinkers, but you can still find pockets where you can get a good gay pour. But two bars, that’s where I go. Alternate nights. They’re both full of queens but they leave me alone. What the hell would they do with a drunk old lesbian?

– Amy Drayer, “No Gods”

“The point is, we can’t afford to let this linger,” said Cutler. “The only ones who want to book a room in the hotel are the podcasters and amateur snoopers who treat murder cases like a ghoulish hobby. The wannabe investigators. The pseudo journalists. The sickos.”

– Mark Stevens, “Junk Feed”

I didn’t give it a second thought when the young white man was shot outside Gaetano’s at Tejon and Thirty-eighth. Way I saw it, that wasn’t news. People been shot in the Northside for years, didn’t matter that the Chicano barrio was quickly turning into something else, something whiter, something with more money.

– Manuel Ramos, “Northside Nocturne”

More than anything, I was afraid she’d ask me to stay. Because if she asked, I would. Which meant I’d never get either of us away from here. I’d disappear into the chaos of our home like wood surrendering to flame.

– Barbara Nickless, “Ways of Escape”

“Gota.” Footfalls followed the voice that he couldn’t believe was speaking. Hot sunlight made the back of Rogelio’s head and neck itch, sweat. He tried to steady his breath, heart knocking against teeth, nails tearing into armrests.

“Dame una gota.”

– D.L. Cordero, “Sangre”

All he wanted to play was jazz, and to one day play trumpet to the First Lady of Song’s voice. So when the Miss Ella Fitzgerald walked into the Silver Sax one chilly November night in 1956, Morgan could hardly believe his dream might come true.

– Francelia Belton, “Dreaming of Ella”

The day they found her father’s body, Nithi’s feet moved on their own, carrying her out of her front door and down Louisiana Avenue, toward Washington Park. It was winter, and pale, leafless maple and oak trees twisted toward the sky like bleached bones. Renovated homes alternated with cleared plots of land, the houseless dirt turned up like freshly dug graves.

– Mathangi Subramanian, “On Grasmere Lake”

I take note of the arrangement of square holes beneath the overpass where the footings for a new foundation will be poured. My gaze continues to the existing interchange. Street legend has it a lot of problems were solved when that part of the highway was built. Snitches and witnesses disappeared, buried beneath thick layers of concrete.

I shrug. Not my concern what happened. Nor what might happen.

– Mario Acevedo, “El Armero”

About Editor Cynthia Swanson…

Cynthia Swanson writes literary suspense, often using historical settings. Cynthia’s debut novel, The Bookseller, was a New York Times bestseller, an Indie Next selection, the winner of the 2016 WILLA Literary Award for Historical Fiction, and is slated to be a motion picture produced by and starring Julia Roberts. Cynthia’s second novel, The Glass Forest, was a USA Today bestseller and has been noted in Forbes as being one of “Five Novels With a Remarkably Strong Sense of Place.” Cynthia’s novels have been translated into up to 18 languages. Cynthia is the editor of Denver Noir (Akashic Books, May 2022), which features dark, morally ambiguous stories set in and around Denver, written by 14 notable literary and mystery authors. Cynthia lives with her family in Denver.


Links to Cynthia’s website, blog, books, #ad etc.:


Special Giveaway: Cynthia is giving away a physical copy (U.S. Only) of DENVER NOIR to one lucky reader who comments on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog.

Happy Reading!


Thanks, Cynthia, for sharing your anthology with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this series of stories!

19 thoughts on “Karen’s Killer Book Bench: DENVER NOIR, Akashic Noir Series #ShortStory #Anthology by 14 Authors #Edited by Cynthia Swanson”

  1. This anthology sounds like great reads! Thank you for sharing about these great sounding stories. Thank you for the chance. Have a great rest of the week and stay safe.

  2. Wonderful assortment of introductions to the shorts…and a few authors I’ve already had the pleasure of reading; more to get to know!

    Thanks so much, Karen et al!

  3. Thank you for noting that they are dark. While I know I won’t read them, how cool that these are based in a city where I grew up near and spent many, many years on the outskirts. Pretty awesome collection. I wish you the best and hope it goes far. <3 Part of me wants to get the book, just to own it. HA!

    1. Thanks, Samantha. Every book isn’t for every reader, as I’m sure you well know. You could always try out the collection and stop reading anything that disturbs you. I’ve been known to do that! With a short story collection, your time investment isn’t as great as it is for a novel you start, get halfway through, and realize it isn’t your cup of tea.

  4. Good morning, Cynthia, and welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. I love anthologies because we get to peek into the stories written by unknown writers. I’ve discovered more writers this way! I actually know a few of these authors. 🙂 I also love suspense and live in Denver. Can’t wait to read this collection!

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