Recognizing Local Literature and Crime Stories


The editor at Creative Colloquy, Joshua Swainston, was inspired from his book Tacoma Pill Junkies to create a publication that would feature crime/noir writers. Swainston says, “At first I was trying to set up a crime noir reading at the Nearsighted Narwhal. Ossain Avila Cardenas asked if I wanted to perform a reading as a production or a reading as a performance. The question changed everything. I never thought of it that way. Why not turn it into a full production? I thought of an audio CD to showcase a bunch of writers.”

It took about a month for Nearsighted Narwhal and Creative Colloquy to create these cohesive dark nature stories. The audio CD has a collection of seven short crime/noir nature stories that were all written by 7 local authors. Each story is short and very theatrical. For example, the CD features a female hitchhiker that tells thrilling and suspenseful stories.  The stories she tells convey a theme of women being devious and in situations of domestic violence.

Each author brings their own perspective of what a dark/crime story means to them. Jack Cameron, a writer from Tacoma Stories, writes an inner monologue that questions police authority. Jenni Prange Baron, a writer for Blue Bunny, writes about kids wanting to learn how thieves rob convenience stores.

The mix of narrators help the reader personalize each of the characters. They use a variety of imagery and background noise such as cars, rain, and music to help the reader visualize the setting as well. For example, author Michelle Biddix Simmons’ story features a laid back piano forewarning that things won’t be relaxing for long.

Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Narwhal features quality musical tracks that are placed in random parts of the CD. Bands that contributed include Americana group The Happy Sinners, and two jazz influenced groups, The Bad Things and Dennis Ellis. The music reflects a 1930s radio show. The song “St. James Infirmary” features slow jazz that creates a dark intermission. “Mac the Knife” sounds like Ella Fitzgerald, while “Witness Statement” reminds us of the days of vaudeville.

This CD is a platform to showcase literary Tacoma. Swainston says, “ Some of the writers on the CD have been writing for years. For others this is their first publication. If you were to go to an open mic in Tacoma, you would probably bump into one of the authors on the CD.”

Swainston finds much diversity in the Tacoma writing culture.  He says, “[the] Tacoma writing scene is very nurturing with everyone willing to give help and give chances.”

The audio presentation brings more versatility to the story. Swainston believes that reading is an active event where the reader has to convey the mood of the story while the background music and narration on an audio CD helps create an image for the reader.

Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Narwhal is available at the Nearsighted Narwhal and at monthly Creative Colloquy readings at the B Sharp coffee house. Digital albums are available via Bandcamp or on




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