Grand Central Noir
An Interview with Terrence P. McCauley
by Chael Needle
The constellations on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal form a proscenium arch over the star-crossed characters in a new anthology devoted to noir. Grand Central Noir (Metropolitan Crime) is a collection of fifteen crime stories by emerging and established writers, such as Matt Hilton, Charles Salzberg, Marcelle Thiebaux, Richie Narvaez, and Seamus Scanlon, among others, including the anthology’s co-editor, Terrence P. McCauley. Some pay homage to classic noir conventions, and some serve up new idioms—but all of the stories circle back to the enduring themes of revenge, betrayal, and love on the run, with characters who are more often than not too wise, too late, and destined to fill their personal scrapbooks with could-have-beens.
With the help of another editor who forewent credit, McCauley compiled the stories that make up Grand Central Noir, no doubt drawing on his New York City roots (he’s a native of the Bronx, now living upstate) but also his deep appreciation for the crime genre. He won a Stalker Award just this year and TruTV’s Search for the Next Great Crime Writer contest in 2008, whose winning manuscript, Prohibition (Airship 27), was published last summer. The Slow Burn (Noir Nation Books) and anthologized short stories are among McCauley’s other ventures into the literary landscape of detection and dark dealings. Traveling to Bouchercon 2013 (a mystery/crime writer’s convention) last month, he appeared on a panel devoted to hard-boiled/noir/pulp writing.
While the characters who populate Grand Central Noir are bound by ethical knots, the editors, writers and supporters of the anthology are clearly not. All proceeds from the anthology will go directly to God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD), a New York City-based non-profit that provides meal delivery and other nutrition services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other life-altering illnesses in the New York tri-state area.
A&U recently caught up with Terrence P. McCauley to delve into dishes best served cold and dishes lovingly prepared and individually tailored by the kind folks at God’s Love We Deliver.
Chael Needle: In your introduction, you explain that you selected GLWD to introduce a note of hope amid these tales of New York City crime. What’s your understanding of “noir” and how does GLWD fit with this?
Terrence P. McCauley: My understanding of noir—also seen as pulp in some circles—is a story that tells the tale of something gone wrong and how the protagonist responds to it. It’s not always about bad things happening to good people. In the case of many of the stories in Grand Central Noir, it’s also bad things happening to bad people. In either instance, it’s the duty of the writer of such stories to make sure the reader is invested enough in the protagonist to care about what happens to him or her. To make the reader care about a character they might not otherwise want to know.
That’s why GLWD seemed to be the perfect organization to benefit from this kind of anthology—because it cares for those we tend to overlook. The people in need. The people we choose not to think about because thinking about them leads us to ponder our own mortality. Since Grand Central was a place for the homeless and the sick to find shelter throughout the eighties and nineties, we wanted to pay homage to that part of the terminal’s past during its centennial celebration. GLWD and its volunteers work very hard to treat those in need with dignity and respect and we wanted to help bring attention to GLWD’s mission in some small way.
Is this the key to surviving in New York City—finding balance between the despair and the hope?
As a proud Bronxite, I’ve learned the importance of balance in all things. To not let achievement go to my head or failure break my heart. If I hear the word “no,” I ask “why” and, if I can, try to make the changes necessary to turn a “no” into a “yes.” A lot of people tend to give up when a roadblock is dropped in their path. I was lucky enough to be taught from an early age that obstacles are meant to be overcome and I credit my Bronx upbringing with teaching me that. Hope is important, but working for what you want will put you in a better position to achieve it.
How did you end up pairing noir, instead of other crime genres, with this setting, Grand Central Terminal?
Noir/pulp is a genre that can include many wonderful stories. If we’d called it Grand Central Mysteries, we would’ve limited ourselves to “whodunits.” Instead, we chose noir because we wanted to attract writers who may want to submit mysteries, but also stories of suspense, crime, and intrigue. Given the thousands of people who go through the terminal every day (and who have traveled through the building every day in its hundred-year history), we thought noir/pulp was the right genre for the kind of anthology we wanted.
What’s your sense of where New York City is at in the fight against HIV/AIDS?
I think New York City has certainly come a long way from the early days in its fight against HIV/AIDS, back when St. Vincent’s was one of the only hospitals who would take such patients. But I also think advances in treatment and medicine have caused a certain amount of complacency to settle into the general psyche about HIV/AIDS. I’d like to see a renewed effort to educate people about the disease and discuss ways to cut down on the risk of contracting it. I would also like to see people become more generous in donating time and money to groups like GLWD. Many people think our tax dollars should be enough to provide for the sick and needy. Unfortunately, after seeing what has happened after disasters like [Hurricane] Sandy, Katrina and the like, we see that government agencies can’t do it all. It’s up to non-profits like GLWD to make sure people in need are treated with dignity and respect and aren’t just a name in a database or a stat on a spreadsheet.
To purchase Grand Central Noir, log on to: www.amazon.com. Or link through Terrence P. McCauley’s blog: http://terrencemccauley.blogspot.com/. For more information about God’s Love We Deliver, log on to: www.glwd.org.