Philadelphia's Noir Con... Where the Nitty Meets the Gritty

Between October 29th to November 2nd Philadelphia opened its historical sites and doors to embrace Noir Con, a celebration and theatre for all that is noir.

Noir tells the stories of tortured souls--losers, psychopaths, loners, obsessives--driven down deadly paths, following desperate plans that are doomed to fail.

At NoirCon doors are unlocked to anything noir. In a world of darkness, NoirCon is a beacon of light. The sins, moral failings and dark truths of the human condition find a home at NoirCon--a forum where writers, filmmakers, publishers, and other noir fans share the trials of uncovering the dark side of life for tortured fictional characters and see real people, the mirror images of ourselves, coping with deep longing and inevitable disappointment. The conference allows friends, new and old, to gather and carry on discussions -discussions that fittingly last late into the night.

All of this happened last week against the backdrop of Philadelphia, a city steeped in noir tradition. Noir was in the blood of the city's prodigal sons--Edgar Allan Poe, David Goodis, George Lippard, David Lynch, Duane Swierczynski and Paul Wendkos. Philadelphia's pedigree helps Noir Con attract lovers of noir from all over the world, making Noir Con's panel discussions eclectic, informed and exciting.

Noir Con's panels are like the hit television show, The Voice, which celebrates the sound of the music and the emotion in the voice, but at Noir Con panelists, largely writers, celebrate existential thoughts and their originality and courage.

At each NoirCon, individuals who have made a difference in noir are celebrated. It has honored the evocatively dark works of Ken Bruen, Lawrence Block, Fuminori Nakamura and George Pelecanos with the David Goodis Award for Literary Excellence.

Every two years, Noir Con, chaired by Deen Kogan who owns the Society Hill Playhouse and Dr. Lou Boxer, an anesthesiologist by day noir enthusiast by night, organized this celebration. Fans of Noir flock to this event and for a joyous and yet macabre weekend devoted to examining some of the darkest--most nourish--aspects of life. A commonality of theme binds this group that needs to make sense of evil that lurks all around us, the inherent injustice, cruel unfairness and undeniable banality of life.

Fans of Noir seek out these encounters with the dark, confidence that we can get close enough for a good look yet strong enough to avoid its iron grip and escape unscathed. Noir is an aphrodisiac--visceral and real. But it's a dangerous lover, so while we're fans, we still lock the doors and peer under the bed and wonder what fate has waiting for us down the next alley. At NoirCon, we unlock those doors, flip the bed and pull back the shroud.

On November 1, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel titled Existential Noir. The esteemed William Lashner, a NYTimes bestselling author was the moderator. A former prosecutor with the Department of Justice in Washington, Mr. Lashner's most acclaimed work is Bagmen. The handsome T. Fox Dunham, an author and historian, has written: The Street Martyr, just optioned by Throughline Films, Professional Detachment, and Searching for Andy Kaufman. K.A.Laity, author of the Chastity Flame thriller series as well as noir novels such White Rabitt. And Paul Oliver, the director of marketing and publicity for Soho Press. Star crime writer, Megan Abott author of the bestselling Fever spoke on a panel on October 30 about the noir aspects of cheerleading and brought the house down.

For my three cents about existentialism in Noir, I said, "The past is death, the future is suicide and all we have is the now. Kierkegaard's sentiments as well, I suspect. And as I looked out at my audience, I said, "And what a wonderful 'now' this is. Looking at all you wise, well-read souls and having the privilege to attend NoirCon so that we can all learn from each other." And with that, the lights dimmed for another two years. Get your beret and shades ready for the next Noir Con! But leave your Gauloise at home.