Thursday, October 28, 2021

Going Down Yonder


The Beloved Spouse™ and I have wanted to go to an event at Yonder since it opened. Life (read: covid) conspired to prevent such an excursion until last week. It was worth the wait. (I’ll not get into the fact that we shouldn’t have had to wait so long. Thanks, you unvaccinated assholes.)


For those unaware, Yonder – Southern Cocktails and Brew, is a drinking establishment and meeting place in Hillsborough, NC that has been described as Hillsborough’s living room. Owned and operated by Eryk Pruitt and his lovely wife Lana Pierce (of whom Eryk is wholly undeserving), Yonder holds regular musical and literary events, including Noirs at Bars a few times a year. (If you unfamiliar with Noir at the Bar, look it up. This is One Bite at a Time, not fucking Wikipedia.)


Last Thursday (October 21) the good people at Yonder (and Eryk) held a special Noir at the Bar to commemorate Halloween by inviting several horror writers along with a top shelf cast of crime authors. The result was the best Noir at the Bar I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a goodly number. (Read at several, and hosted one, too. Yonder’s horror night was still best.)


A few general observations before I get specific.

·       Those typically associated with crime all had an element of crime in their stories, the horror writers, not so much.

·       Crime writers tend to tell their stories through dialog; horror writers are typically more narrative-based. This is not a hard and fast rule.

·       I have never been to a Noir at the Bar where the performance level was close to this high. Not only were all the stories outstanding (let’s face it, N@Bs are anthologies, so maintaining a uniform level of quality can be an issue), the readings were uniformly excellent. No one just read; they performed, and they all nailed it.


This was among the fastest two-and-a-half hours I ever spent.


Everyone deserves credit. I had three beers, so I don’t remember the exact sequence in which everyone read, so here’s the list in alphabetical order.

·       Nathan Ballingrud read the opening of a story about a bookseller who clearly deals more than paperbacks out of the back room. What, we don’t know. I’ve already ordered his book so I can see what happens next.

·       Natalia Barron’s excerpt was as dark as its subterranean setting would suggest, and left everyone wondering where the story would go.

·       Michele Tracy Berger read a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of moving from one fast food employer to another.

·       S.A. Cosby supplied a harrowing tale of the backstory to a horrific shooting binge.

·       Rob Hart told of a new restaurant experience in New York City that will give you pause before going to another potluck dinner.

·       Jamie Mason’s story talked about one supernatural entity rousing itself to fight another, more malevolent one.

·       Katy Munger took the Halloween theme seriously, telling a story that combined laugh out loud humor with a disquieting warning of who can hide in plain sight on Halloween.

·       Eryk Pruitt creeped everyone out with a tale of a side of dom/sub relationships people never think of.

·       Todd Robinson read of redemption and forgiveness after a horrific tragedy.

·       Cadwell Turnbull’s vampire story taught the dark side of eternal life.


I’m not a horror guy, so I was unfamiliar with the horror writers who read that night, and was profoundly impressed at the quality of their stories, and writing, compared to what I remembered from my young adulthood, when I read a fair amount of it. A personal re-assessment of the genre may be in order. They were also all new to the Noir at the Bar experience, so it was a treat to see how much fun they had in the company of people who love to write and read.


No assessment of the festivities would be complete without mention of the host, Tracey Reynolds. I’ve hosted a Noir at the Bar and can attest that, while it’s not particularly difficult, it’s not something you just roll out of bed and do. One must prepare, and an ability to read an audience and pace the performance is imperative. I’ve never seen anyone do it better than Tracey. (And no one – no one – handles a microphone condom better.)


In addition to all the above (like that wasn’t enough), this was an opportunity for The Beloved Spouse™ and me to reconnect with some good friends face-to-face. The trip would have been a success had the reading flopped, just so we could see Eryk, Lana, Todd, and Shawn to trade hugs, news, and insults. I knew Rob Hart slightly from social media, and it was a treat to get to meet him in person, as well.


As it was with everyone I met. I made a point of telling the writers I didn’t know beforehand how much I enjoyed their work, and not just because I know how good that feels after such an event. I genuinely did enjoy their stories, and I hope this becomes an annual event at Yonder.

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