Since In Sunlight or in Shadow is a collection of short stories, I’m listing it by title rather than author. What a collection it is! Edited by Lawrence Block, this anthology is comprised of noir tales inspired by various paintings of the very noir artist, Edward Hopper. The writers include some big names known to the general public, like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as highly regarded writers of the mystery genre like Megan Abbot, Lee Child, Jonathan Santlofer, and Justin Scott, to name a few. It’s interesting to see how some writers carefully recreate the image of a Hopper painting, while others only roughly advert to the painting to spin off their tale of the hidden side of society or the individual psyche.
The stories are a fascinating descent into the dark and twisted “justice” of the noir universe. I can’t think of a bad story in the whole diverse bunch that range from mystical realism and fantasy (“Rooms by the Sea,” “Office at Night,” “Taking Care of Business”) to hard boiled grittiness (“The Projectionist,” “Girlie Show,” “Nighthawks”) to twisted yet satisfying irony (“The Music Room,” “Night Windows,” “Autumn at the Automat”) to plunges into the dark psyches of individuals and society (“The Woman in the Window,” “Soir Bleu,” “Girlie Show” ). It’s hard to name favorites, but I have to say I especially love the not-quite-eerie fantastical of “Rooms by the Sea,” the delicious plotting of “Night Windows,” the un-selfconscious exploration of character gradually unfolding into a revelation of genuine human motivations and designs in “Still Life” and “Autumn at the Automat.” Then, of course, there is also the sly humor of “The Preacher Collects” and wonderful humanity of “The Story of Caroline.” Even if I haven’t named all the stories here, they all were a pleasure. If you want to enjoy a collection that beautifully evokes place, time, and personality playing out the images of a darker world, this collection is definitely for you!