Every two years, the intrepid Lou Boxer assembles a wild cast of characters in a little community playhouse in Philadelphia and calls it NoirCon. For several days every other autumn, Philly becomes the epicenter of all things noir. Lou is a major David Goodis enthusiast, and since both he and Goodis are natives of Philadelphia, where else could this event be held?
I learned of it in 2010, and paid my registration fee for that year’s conference. I also purchased a plane ticket. I did the same in 2012 — registered and paid my airfare — and in neither year did I actually attend NoirCon. I won’t go into the reasons, but I vowed that nothing would keep me from being there this year. And nothing did.
Apart from miserable weather (hey, it’s Philadelphia, right?), the conference was a winner. My first event was a screening of the 1950 film noir gem, The Prowler, starring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes. It’s a little-known film for which only one print exists, and that’s the one we saw. That print was also aired on TCM a few months ago during their first showing of the film.
The screening was followed by an interview with Eddie Muller, the widely-recognized Czar of Noir, who shed a lot of light on not only this film, but also his attempts at rescuing these old films from deterioration and destruction. Eddie’s done a lot of work in this area and has been responsible for the restoration and salvaging of dozens of films which we would otherwise not have today. During the Saturday night NoirCon banquet, he received an award for his tireless work.
Several panels were held at the Society Hill Playhouse, a small community theater venue on the rim of downtown. It had a great vibe to it, and the panels were rewarding, to say the least. One informative event was a talk given by Steve Hodel, former LAPD homicide detective, who has concluded, after years of investigation and amassing mountains of solid evidence, that his father had murdered Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, in 1947.
The bookstore, set up in the Playhouse, was a noir fiction lover’s wet dream, containing books from just about everyone you could imagine, including recent re-releases of every Jim Thompson novel.
One night during the conference, we were treated to a special screening of Get Carter (1971), compliments of Soho Press, who have worked hard to put international crime fiction into the hands of noir lovers worldwide. I bought the Ted Lewis novel on which the movie was based, as well as its prequel, Jack Carter’s Law.
A major highlight for me was winning a raffle held at the conference banquet, where my prize was a fabulous black & white photograph, hand-colored, the work of Richie Fahey. It’s called A Stone For Billie Madley. Google it. It’s a great piece. And valuable, too.
I saw many old friends there, and made some new ones as well. I never got a count on how many people attended the conference, but the number easily eclipsed 100, and may have gone over 150. Regardless, it’s growing every time out, and I’m sure 2016 will be even more successful. Lou Boxer will see to it.