Sunday, March 13, 2016

Noir At The Bar: Carlisle - Noir At The Bar Comes to the UK

Zoë Sharp

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to the first Noir At The Bar event held in England. It wasn’t the first one in the UK – that honour was nabbed by Glasgow in June last year.

The inaugural English event took place in Carlisle, at the quirky Moo Bar on Devonshire Street, which is a real-ale-drinker’s dream location. The organisers were three local crime authors – Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven, collectively known as Crime Ink-Corporated.

l to r Matt Hilton, Graham Smith, Mike Craven
When Matt first emailed me about taking part I said yes right away, and only then started to think about what I was actually going to read out. We were each allowed between five and seven minutes, although I’ve always found short and sweet tends to go down better than going on again, on again, on again.

In the end I plumped for part of my Charlie Fox short story ‘Kill Me Again Slowly’, which I wrote for the Bouchercon 2015 anthology, MURDER UNDER THE OAKS. This story had enough of a bizarre setup to be (I hope) both intriguing and entertaining. Seemed to go down well on the night, anyway.

Of course, while the idea of N@tB may be a new one in the UK, such events have been going on in the States since 2008. Crime reviewer, critic and blogger, Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders came up with the original idea, which was held at a bar tended by a friend in Philadelphia, where the décor happened to be all black.

Peter Rozovsky (right) with Ali Karim of Shots eZine
(pic by Ali Karim)
The format for those first evenings was for a single author to read and take questions, but since then – and with more authors wanting to take part – there can be quite a number, reading out short extracts either from a current work or, in some cases, from something experimental that might or might not otherwise see the light of … night.

great pic for N@tB, created by illustrator Brent Schoonover
Dozens of N@tB evenings have now sprung up from New York to LA and all points in between. And then last year two Brit authors decided to bring it over here. The organisers for the Glasgow event were Jay Stringer and Russel D McLean. Jay made it down to Carlisle for last week’s event, and very entertaining he is, too.

As were the other writers on the bill, including Lucy Cameron, Paul Finch, James Hilton, Tess Makovesky, David Mark, Jay Stringer, Neil White and myself. A wildcard name was pulled from a hat on the night – Linda Wright. Some read parts of short stories, work-in-progress novels, current novels and even a great poem. And all with that dark kind of humour that marks out this particular corner of the genre.

thanks to Noir at the Bar for the pic
The place was packed, and by the end of the evening Graham was able to announced that the Moo Bar had happily invited N@tB back again for a return match. I hope I’m lucky enough to be there for it.

l to r Matt Hilton, Lucy Cameron, Graham Smith, Tess Makovesky, Paul Finch, Linda Wright, Neil White, David Mark, Jay Stringer, ZS, Jim Hilton (Matt's brother) and Mike Craven
This week’s Word of the Week comes courtesy of Lucy Cameron’s blog, and is pleonasm, meaning the use of more words or parts of words than are strictly necessary for clear expression. It comes from the Greek pleonasmos (pleon) meaning more or too much. One common example is ‘safe haven’, as if it wasn’t safe it wouldn’t be a haven, so ‘safe’ can be left out. However, sometimes pleonasm is employed for additional emphasis, in case certain words are lost during communication.


  1. Sounds like fun was had by all, Zoë.

    So, a case in point for pleonasm might be:

    Word of Week from Lucy Cameron, pleonasm, using more words/parts than necessary, from Greek pleonasmos (pleon), more/too much. Example: ‘safe haven’, ‘safe’ can be omitted. Sometimes pleonasm adds

    Or, with less words:
    WotW: pleonasm -

    So, excessive use of pleonasms can lead to prolixity?

    Of course, fighting against pleonasms, taken to an extreme, could make one pauciloquent.

    Hey, I could be an editor...

  2. Zoe, Noir at the Bar events are very popular here in NYC. I hope they catch on in the UK. They give writers a chance to nab a little limelight.
    And thank you for "pleonasm"--which points out when "unnecessary" words actually add a little something. It is not synonymous with verbosity.

  3. I sometimes feel I'm a walking pleonasm...especially when following EvKa. I keep running into Noir at Bar events at more and more conventions, and it's a very good idea for both the authors (as AmA points out) and bars in search of customers who drink.

    By the way, doesn't "Hilton Smith Craven" strike you as a terrific name for a very noir villain?