Featured Review


A selection of stories about Miami noir that you cant ignore

Chris Joseph Stancato

Miami Noir, Edited by Les Standiford, Published by Akashic Books, 2007

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing—Romans (Ch. VII v. 19)

It is only fitting that Miami Noir begin with a biblical gateway. A lead into brash fiction, bold language, and hard liquored love as ambiguous as a bar fly.  

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This past summer, I was listening to a program on my local public radio station (WLRN) called, Sundial. On that show Les Standiford, a Miami author of several novels and the editor for this book, was discussing the Magic City’s literary diet of crime. He mentioned Miami Noir, discussed its contents, and essentially, he had me sold to those stories and their authors. Miami is a cinematic tale to two cities, but unlike other metropolises, the cultures weave—in and out from the inner-city to the suburban sidewalks. Some days this formidable fabric feels like a comfortable shirt, other days like an overcoat.  From the beginning… (Don’t worry, I’m a Miamian, while I share this history –shoulder to shoulder— I am on more shallow ground than hallowed, a herald of this city.)

The inception and invasion of Miami is not visible from the neon glow on the city’s mirror, but on the back side. Our timeline is revealed when parts of the mirror shatter into broken reflective stories. We are, at times, living in a paradise stranded on a peninsula. Some days treading in the water, some days meddling on the land, and some days we beckon the call for our Babylonian state. The plurality of paradise is one more layer, or page to be written, from being thin-blooded theorist: dire consequences blow up like a tagged car insurance billboard with “305 till I die!”

 The moral ambiguous map of Miami is a politician’s dream: a daily redistricting to the right and wrong. Amble into any neighborhood and you’ll find made in Miami news. Places of particular interest to hear stories are those drinking cafecitos at a cafetería ventana, a liquid brunch on South Beach, or street corner crowds smoking. There’s always one nefarious character, a conversation terrorist who knows nothing about the discussion but parachutes into the dialogue with direct knowledge. In a matter of time, this person, a grifter or groveler, delivers their news of self-interest.  And this is our daily bread, our Miami noir that you can’t ignore. This broad introduction for an anthology of short-stories by Miamian authors, continues with the following highlights from Miami Noir: (The stories in this book are accompanied by location.) “Blown Away” by Anthony Dale Gagliano (Homestead) places the reader after a hurricane in a timeline equally turbulent. “Swap Out” by Preston L. Allen (Miami-Dade Correctional Center) presents street-prose about two men in a deep discussion of friendship, marriage, and mercy. “The Swimmers” by Jeffrey Wehr (South Beach) a desperate tale of freedom, the expense of liberation, and the reality of smuggler’s disposable cargo. And finally, “The Last of Lord Jitters” by David Beaty (South Miami) is about lovers, brothers, and the eye of the past like a hurricane—opening to a pool where an alligator is the elephant in the barricaded home.

The arrangement of authors is attributed to a selection in the community—this is what every reader outside of this vicinity wants. I would hope in the future, the arrangement of writers will be a contemporary group reflective in the new decade. Miami changes faster than most cities, but we’re not always changing with transients but rather location. Thus, Miami noir is knocking with enclaves of literary post in open mic nights, theatre groups reciting scripts, storytelling musicians busking, and poets/spoken word performers laying down lyrics like folk artists.

Miami Noir gives the reader creative cornerstones, block by block, with chapters that chew away at a bone found in the everglades. If you find the latter example cynical, and the chew predetermined, then you’ll enjoy the questionable actions by the players in these pages.

Chris Joseph Stancato, Paperback Writer and Poet

Whiskey on Beer PUBLISHED FEB2019

A storied documentary that beckons all who have a passion for music

February, 2019, Savor Cinema, Ft. Lauderdale—Whiskey on Beer, a documentary about the punk rock band Load.  

Whiskey on Beer is more than a documentary about the band Load, it is more than a documentary about a lead singer in his prime plummeting, it is a timeline about Robert “Bobby Load” Johnston’s life from cradle to grave. And yet, The Brothers Ahmed, Gary and Rick who produced this film documentary, allow you to comprehend Bobby’s life with personal accounts of adoration and vignettes from venues.

I met Bobby working at the Nocturnal Café (now the Poorhouse) in Ft. Lauderdale in 1995 when I was a short-order cook. He was a nice guy who introduced himself and talked about his band, Load. He was a recognizable force each time he entered the café to have a beer or in social circles when my friends and I would see him downtown. People always talked about Load as a great punk band and his persona as a front man. Once I recalled someone talked about his hardcore drinking and engaging performances and how his mom’s strong religious beliefs were the complete opposite of his character. On the latter, it was not in a disrespectful manner about his mom, but that Bobby would tell whoever entered his home what to expect. Aptly put, everyone knew about Bobby and his band.

I was also fortunate to meet many people who partied or played at the Nocturnal Café or socialized downtown from music venues to pubs. In the length of my three years hanging out in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, I would remember some of those people from a period bygone and Bobby was one of them. Twenty-three years later at an open mic night at the Zen Mystery Tea House, located in Dania Beach, I would hear Bobby’s name again.

After a few performers, a singer-songwriter named Jeanne Partridge took the stage with guitar in hand. She played a few songs then told the intimate crowd a story about her next song called, “Bobby Load.”

I met him in 2009 in Octopus, in downtown Hollywood. I didn’t know who he was since I only moved to Florida in 2007. Some of my musician friends quickly let me know he was a local legend. He was on the skids when we met but man, he could still sing!  I liked him. Don’t think he ever learned my name; when he saw, me he always said, “You’re the chick that sings that Patti Smith song.” I bought a couple pieces of his artwork that he carried around in a backpack. One time I gave him a ride when he didn’t have bus fare. Another time he literally blew his partial out of his mouth while belting out a song… I found it on the floor and he popped it right back into his mouth.  — Jeanne Partridge

When Jeanne referenced Bobby’s name and led into ‘local legend,’ I knew who she was talking about. After she finished her set, I approached her and said that I too knew Bobby. I didn’t think about Jeanne’s song until I saw that Savor Cinema was having a premier called Whiskey on Beer. When I learned this documentary was about Load, I knew I had to attend. And what I learned is that our timetables were bookends of a punk group on the verge of becoming something great and Bobby’s life thereafter.

In Whiskey on Beer, I learned that my moment and her story were part of many experiences people shared with Bobby. In addition to the table of contents about Bobby, Whiskey on Beer offers the scope of Load in the South Florida’s music scene in the early 90’s, an equally telling story.

Whiskey on Beer is exceptional. The film’s montage is meticulous with interviews from the remaining band members (Fausto Figueredo and Tony Qualls), a popular public radio show host who treasured the band, other bands during that era, and his brother who discussed the struggle Bobby had with alcohol. This documentary is deliberate with the preface that Bobby is the story. It was prepared for an audience abroad because whether you live in Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville or Seattle, Whiskey on Beer is a relatable story about a band attempting to make it big. However, you experience Bobby’s timeline before and after Load’s stint, and this is the major part of the film’s essence. 

Robert Johnston, known to many as Bobby Load, died in 2012 and The Brothers Ahmed pay tribute to him as well as Load’s other band member, Jeff Tucci who died in 2014.  The narrative is now in the annals of music and rightfully so. Whiskey on Beer is a compelling documentary that beckons all who have a passion for music.

6 thoughts on “Featured Review”

  1. Very interesting story for anyone!
    I got to reminisce, thank you and I do happen to have a passion for music; this caught my attention quickly!
    And I’d like to know more about a ‘mystery tea room’ in Dania!!

    1. Thank you, it’s a great story and soon to be released nationally. The Zen Mystery tea room is in Dania, wonderful place. Thank you again for your comment.

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