An accomplished poet, playwright, and short-story writer, William Baer has turned to crime, creating a brilliant debut novel, the hard-boiled whodunit New Jersey Noir. If you’re looking for classic noir elements, you’ll find them here, in spades: a tough-guy PI with a gorgeous gal Friday; scores of other dangerous dames; an old cold case intertwined with a hot new case; corrupt politicians; crime bosses; and grit, guns and gore galore. And you’ll find fine literary elements here, as well: precise prose, perfect pacing, stunning imagery, complex characterization, grand historical and cultural contexts, and a superb sense of place. More than anything else, New Jersey Noir is a loving tribute to the Garden State by a writer who appreciates its grime as much as its glory. Early on, the narrator of the novel, PI Jack Colt, lists some great New Jersey voices, including Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis and Bruce Springsteen. It’s time to add a couple more great Jersey voices to this list: Jack Colt himself and his creator, William Baer.
— Hollis Seamon (Jersey girl, born and raised), author of Somebody Up There Hates You
Not since Donna Tartt’s The Secret History have I read a novel as mesmerizing, engrossing, and delectable as William Baer’s New Jersey Noir. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book so compelling that I was forced to drop everything and commit myself for several hours to experiencing, vicariously, the strange and haunted darkness that is the shadow world of this novel. In prose as fast-moving as a bullet, Baer compels the reader to keep flipping pages more and more rapidly, but “page turner” doesn’t even begin to describe how immersive and fascinating this detective novel is. Baer’s writing is taut, gut-wrenching, and entirely blurb-worthy. If you don’t love this book, it’s entirely possible that you don’t have a pulse. New Jersey Noir and Baer’s talent presage a brilliant career for this wonderfully gifted writer.
— Terri Brown-Davidson, author of Marie, Marie, Hold On Tight
Jack Colt, the private investigator in William Baer’s New Jersey Noir, romances the genre to the suspenseful effect that JJ “Jake” Gittes achieves in Roman Polanski’s acclaimed Chinatown. In place of technicolor LA, however, Baer evokes a cinematic chiaroscuro New Jersey, specifically Paterson, its history and politics limned over a baseline of Springsteen, doo-wop, and Whitney Houston. In the early pages of this compelling mystery when Colt muses that his fellow detective, Luca Salerno, “was tough all right, but not tough enough to look into the heart of darkness,” the allusion to Joseph Conrad alerts us that we are in for a more trenchant narrative than a gumshoe and dames thriller. Baer fulfills by deftly executing the universal themes of incest, adultery, madness, and undisguised evil rising out of the swamps of the Meadowlands and beyond.
— Dennis Must, author of Hush Now, Don’t Explain