Small Town Noir – the book!

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This post will remain at the top of the page while the book campaign is underway — scroll down for more recent updates!

NEWS! For a long time, I’ve wanted to produce a book of New Castle mug shots — a handsomely designed hardcover book that would properly memorialise the people whose lives I’ve written about and the troubled town I’ve become fascinated by.

That might be about to happen.

Publishers have always told me that the problem with a Small Town Noir book is that simply not enough people care about New Castle, and that the manuscript really ought to include more murderers. I understand their point. If it were set in New York, or if it were about the Mob, there would be a much more obvious market. But I wouldn’t necessarily want to write that book. The thing that captured my attention about the mug shots and New Castle was precisely the fact that the people were unknown and lived ordinary lives, and that the town had slipped from the world’s thoughts.

So I’ve teamed up with an innovative publishing company called Unbound, which uses a crowdfunding model to produce books by proving that there’s a demand for them before the publication process starts. We’ve worked together on a proposed outline for the book, which is exactly what I’d dreamed about: 150 full-page photographs on good paper, with 70,000 words of text; the pictures arranged chronologically from 1930 to 1960, so the passage of time is evident as you flick past changing hairstyles, fashions and types of photographic film stock; with the stories building up one after the other into a fractured portrait of a particular place and time that there’s really no other way to access.

If enough people pledge to buy the book, we can do this!

To support the project — I’d really love it if you did — click this link:


  1. A book on Small Town Noir is a wonderful idea. History is not just great events and famous people, but mundane everyday reality. I look forward to it’s publication.

  2. AMY EVANS says

    I am so happy to see this progress in your project!! I will be pledging soon!  I have shared it on my Facebook and have encouraged other to visit your site, watch this video and of course pledge to your project!!!  I do have a question, are there mugshots that have not been published on your website? 

    • Thanks for doing all of that, Amy! I appreciate your efforts. I’ve got well over 1,000 mug shots so, although the bulk of the book will be ones that have been on the website, there will be some stories that appear only in the book. And some of the ones that are on the website have been entirely re-written for the book, because of information that has been sent to me by members of the person’s family (it’s always so great when they get in touch!) or because other primary sources have been digitised in the years since they were written.

      Thanks again! I hope the campaign works out!

  3. What a great site! You remind me of myself. My teenage daughter and I found an old yearbook from 1923 for Emerson College in upstate New York and I have spent countless hours researching what became of the bright eyed young women pictured in it. I’ve read the handwritten notes they left to the owner with fascination and have thought often of traveling there to walk where they walked. Thanks for this. I know I’m not the freak my wife thinks I am.

    • Glad to be of service! That sounds like an interesting bit of research, too. Maybe you’ll put some of it online one day — let me know if you do!

      I see from your website that you work in movies. You might be interested in my old blog, The Unsung Joe ( ), which is about the lives of the most minor of bit-part players and extras in old Hollywood movies.

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