I’ve just been handed a book of this title, edited by Patrick Millikin. In his superb introduction, Patrick writes that Phoenix ‘is a city founded on shady development deals, good ol’ boy politics, police corruption, organized crime and exploitation of natural resources.’ He also points out that ‘the city recently overtook Philadelphia to become the fifth largest in the country, and the Phoenix metro area now rivals Los Angeles County in size.’
The speed and scale of Phoenix’s growth is stupefying: this is, after all, the desert. And the cracking stories Patrick has selected for the anthology are all, in their way, commentary on that phenomenal explosion which only occurred, as Barbara Peters of The Poisoned Pen tells me, after the invention of refrigerated air.
Air conditioning, introduced in the 1950s, made the desert liveable. Before that, Phoenix was a farm town for ranchers, and citrus trees.
It seems awfully precarious. I can’t help noticing that there are some unusual ways to die in Phoenix: you can be felled by a gum-tree (they were brought in from Australia, and spread like weeds; but they have very shallow roots). You can die climbing an itty-bitty mountain like Camel Hump. It should take 45 minutes but it’s hot up there. You can be swept away in a flash flood – believe me, it happens: the subsoil here is a natural concrete called caliche, and when it rains there’s nowhere for the water to run.
You can presumably die in some of the ways explored by the authors in Phoenix Noir, who include Edgar Award winner Megan Abbott, Diana Gabaldon, Jon Talton and Kurt Reichenbaugh, to name a few.