Cynicism and despair are at the heart of "Meeting Across the River," the evocative mood piece that stood out on Springsteen's blockbuster "Born to Run" album like a condemned man at a keg party. In a new anthology of the same title, 20 writers improvise on the lyric's spare tale about a petty criminal and his pathetic plot to score an illicit two grand.
It's a mark of Springsteen's occasional brilliance as a writer that he could sketch his unnamed narrator so fully, in so few words, to inspire such a variety of interpretations. Some, predictably, are more satisfying than others. Several of them are surprisingly inventive, like C.J. Box's yarn about immigrants pirating microbiological secrets in Yellowstone or Gregg Hurwitz's little thriller about a deadly virus set on a timer.
In a period piece, novelist Steve Hamilton imagines an honest mechanic who gets dragged into a mobster's bootlegging scheme. Hamilton's isn't the only story here that describes an unsavory character as a "mug." The lingo is apt, if a little obvious. "Meeting Across the River" is pure noir. The source song, despite its surface serenity, is all tension; it's immersed in nighttime.
San Francisco Chronicle
I will be signing with other anthology authors - and esteemed editor-contributors Richard Brewer and Jessica Kaye - at Hollywood's Book Soup, this Thursday July 7 at 7pm.