In 2009, Patrick Millikin edited a great collection of short stories published as Phoenix Noir, which remains one of the best entries in the Noir series from Akashic. Millikin now returns with an excellent new collection of stories in The Highway Kind.
As was the case with Phoenix Noir, Millikin has recruited an all-star cast of writers, including Michael Connelly, Ace Atkins, George Pelecanos, C.J. Box, Gary Phillips, Wallace Stroby, Joe R. Lansdale and others. There's even a contribution from Patterson Hood, who is perhaps better known as a founding member of Drive-By Truckers, and whose contribution to this collection is a very noirish story featuring a Chevy Chevelle SS.
Millikin, who is currently restoring a 1960 Cadillac, notes in the preface that "Over the years, the automobile has come to represent not just our freedom, but our isolation.... When we're not checking our e-mail or text-messaging with our friends, we're driving and we're thinking.... Our cars facilitate our secret lives."
The vehicles featured in these stories are as wide-ranging as the authors who produced them. Perhaps not surprisingly, Michael Connelly's story, "Burnt Matches," takes place in Mickey Haller's Lincoln. C.J. Box's contribution, "Power Wagon," centers on a 1948 Dodge Power Wagon. George Pelecanos picks a 1970 E-body Plymouth Barracuda for his entry, "The Triple Black 'Cuda." Ace Atkins chose a vintage Ford Bronco, perfectly restored with a new Cleveland 321 engine and jacked up with a Pro Comp lift kit, Pro Comp wheels and big, chunky Goodrich tires. Luis Alberto Urrea, who won an Edgar for his story in Phoenix Noir, returns here with "The Pleasure of God," which features a tricked-out yellow VW van.
The vehicles are all interesting and the stories are all top-notch, as one would expect from a group of writers this talented. It's a collection that will appeal to anyone who loves excellent crime fiction, great cars and the open road. And with that combination, you can't possibly go wrong.