Section: archive

Literary agent spreads wisdom

Literary agent spreads wisdom

By Emily Sakamoto and Rachel Sweeney

It’s been 23 years since he graduated from Kenyon, but David Hale Smith ’90 looked as comfortable over dinner and drinks at Writer-in-Residence P. F. Kluge’s home this past weekend. He discussed a range of topics from being a Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother e at Kenyon to his daughter’s determination to sell Girl Scout cookies.

Smith returned to Gambier on Monday, Nov. 18 to discuss his experiences in the publishing industry, as well as his position as the editor of the newly released short-story anthology Dallas Noir.

Even while a student at Kenyon, Smith had always had his eye on the literature business. “I wanted to work in book publishing,” he said. “But I thought I would be an editor.”

Over two decades later, Smith has not only returned to Kenyon as a literary agent but also with the title of editor that he had originally sought.

Beginning in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books, a Brooklyn-based independent publishing company, has published nearly 60 volumes in the Noir series, each focusing on the darker side of a well-known city.

A native Texan, Smith draws from Dallas’ dark history to provide a frame of reference for the 16 stories in the anthology. Dallas Noir is “set in the city known for perhaps the worst crime in American history” ラ the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago tomorrow.

As editor, Smith was tasked with curating a series of stories that would capture the tone of noir and the spirit of the city.

The book draws from a pool of authors that includes teachers and award-winning writers, including Kathleen Kent, Ben Fountain and James Hime. The end result is a volume of “super entertaining ナ mind candy.”

Smith first became interested in working as a literary agent as a result of Kluge’s fiction seminar, where he first heard of the position.

Today, Smith represents Kluge as his agent. “He contacted me after I started to get a little bit of notice in the industry,” Smith said. “And asked if I’d be interested [in being his agent]. I said, ムAre you kidding me?'”

Smith’s latest medium of noir is perhaps the darkest that fiction can get, he said.

“They’re existential, pessimistic works about protagonists that are severely flawed, morally questionable. The characters are driven by lust, greed and jealousy. ナ Nobody gets out clean, and in many cases nobody gets out alive. That’s noir. Bleak as bleak gets.”

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