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Friday, June 15, 2018

Lagos Noir


Edited by Chris Abani

Akashic Books     2018
218 pages     Short Stories/Noir

Another three Noir short story collections came to me from Akashic Books, the publisher that has specialized in noir collections from places all over the world. Each collection is edited by a native of that area, and feature stories by authors from the region. They are: Lagos Noir, Santa Cruz Noir, and Sao Paulo Noir.

I picked Lagos Noir to read first from this new batch of books because I had never read anything from Nigeria, although I have an advanced readers copy of Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo, which I planned to read in conjunction with Lagos Noir. Haven’t gotten to it yet. Grandkids got in the way of reading time.

Here is what the editor, Chris Abani, has to say about the stories he chose. “The thirteen stories that comprise this volume stretch the boundaries of “noir” fiction, but each one of them fully captures the essence of noir, the unsettled darkness that continues to lurk in the city’s streets, alleys, and waterways.”

I would like to mention two stories. My favorite was Showlogo by Nnedi Okorafor. In this story, we meet Showlogo, the neighborhood bully, 6’4” of pure muscle with an attitude to match. He farms outside the city, but because farming isn’t making any money in Nigeria any more, Showlogo has just gotten a job as a baggage handler at the airport. At the same time, he continues to terrorize the neighborhood. When the shit hits the fan and Showlogo figures out he has to escape, he hides on a plane, heading for the U.S. What happens next leaves the reader going WHAT!

The other story, Killer Ape, is by the editor Chris Abani. It is about a murder case in 1987 Lagos. When the police detective arrives on the scene, it seems apparent that the pet chimp killed the homeowner. It seems bizarre, at best, but the poignant reason for the killing is heart wrenching. I was very touched by the “unsettled darkness” of the story.

 Each story is skillfully chosen and placed in the anthology. I highly recommend this addition to the Akashic series.


I have another posting about Akashic noir books. You can find it here. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

You Lucky Dog


By Debra Finerman

Stewart’s Grove Press     2018
226 pages     Fiction

Is You Lucky Dog a love story or is it a dog story, or is it both? I began with the question as I brought the car to the shop to be serviced, book in hand. After about two hours, I had the answer to my question—and a totally serviced car. It is both—a love story and a dog story. And it’s all a bit dopey!

Emma is married to a man named Jake. She also owned a Westie named Jake when she met the human Jake. The couple and the dog have recently moved to Los Angeles, where human Jake is in a car accident with the Westie Jake on his lap. In the midst of the accident Jake feels his brain synapses sparking and sputtering, A chemicalization spreads through his body and his DNA unravels. The two Jakes fuse. Human Jake has merged into Westie Jake. Or so it seems.

The book cover says, ”a hilarious and heartwarming tale of misplaced identity. You Lucky Dog explores the mysteries of life and death, and the enduring power of love, in a heartwarming story for animal lovers and all lovers.

Yes, it’s cute—as cute as a talking dog. Of course it will please dog lovers particularly, although I think it might please people on the beach or teenage girls. It definitely was the perfect read for the auto service center.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Noir: A Novel


By Christopher Moore

William Morrow    2018
352 pages     Noir/Humor

Oh my goodness! What a hoot!  Noir: A Novel is a send-up of every pretentious noir or hard-boiled detective novel ever written.

As many of you know, I have been studying noir over the past several months, ever since I read Deadbomb Bingo Ray last year. Then Akashic Books sent me three volumes of noir and neo-noir short stories which I reviewed. Which led me to try to discover the difference between noir and neo-noir. Then, just recently, a literature professor told me that our local author Bonnie Jo Campbell’s books could be classified as “country noir.” Now that was a term I had never heard of and will be another addition to my reading agenda.

Well, anyway, let’s talk about Noir: A Novel, the humorist Christopher Moore’s newest effort. Frankly, I had never read anything by Christopher Moore, but if all his books are as funny as this one, I have got to tune in to him more frequently.

 The book takes place in 1947 as the US is getting resettled following the war. The protagonist—the main protagonist, at least—is Sam, a bartender at a grimy San Francisco saloon. The other protagonist is a snake! We meet both in the first chapter when Sam arrives at work and finds his boss dead on the floor, killed by snake venom. The bar owner, Sal, was killed by the snake that Sam had delivered to the bar because he has plans to go into the “snake whiz” business. Apparently many Asian men are eager to buy snake pee as a cure for erectile dysfunction. 

Of course there is a girl; in this case a gorgeous dime store waitress named Stilton. Sam calls her “Cheese.” He falls instantly in love with her after she walks into the bar one night. Sam says that Stilton has “the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes.”  Much of the plot hinges on Sam saving Cheese from a gathering of powerful, rich men that she has been hired to entertain at a camp in the woods outside the city.

Oh, and I almost forgot, there is an alien—a little green moon man. And a group of men—maybe government agents—out to find the little guy. At this point, any resemblance to any classical noir goes completely off the rails, and the reader just can’t stop laughing. One reviewer says: “In keeping with the noir style, there are many divergent plotlines that ultimately have to be tied up, and Moore’s solution—no spoilers here—is unique to the genre.  

The riffs on “noir speak” are incredibly funny. I found myself underlining something silly on nearly every page. For example:
·         “The fog lay spread across the city like a drowned whore—damp, cold, smelling of salt and diesel—a sea-sodden streetwalker who’d just bonked a tugboat.”
·         “If you’re planning a caper, that’s the flatfoot you want flapping after you. That mug couldn’t catch a cough in a tire fire.”
·         “he looked like a black-and-white character that had stumbled into a Technicolor movie.”

Well, I could go on and on. Those three quotes were on just 3 pages. Dashell Hammet and Raymond Chandler are probably turning over in their graves. A couple of the major reviewers, including Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly didn’t particularly like Noir: A Novel, but most likely they weren’t in the proper frame of mind. I read it over the Memorial Day weekend when the temperatures were in the 90s and my brain was as frizzled as the garden I had just planted. It all made perfect sense to me.

Christopher Moore’s website.