The 17th in Akashic's acclaimed series of original noir anthologies is the first with a non-Anglo setting (the two earlier non-U.S. locales were London and Dublin). The choice to collect Cuban stories was a smart one: it will expose American noir fans to other cultures, and readers interested in those other cultures will get a taste of noir. The authors will be unknown to virtually all American readers, but by and large, they prove themselves as capable of crafting grim and gritty stories of despair and irony as their more familiar counterparts. The standout is Mylene Fernandez Pintado's "The Scene," a short but searing portrait of trapped lives. As the unnamed narrator nears the end of his rope, he simultaneously faces eviction from his apartment and the impending death of his elderly mother, for whom he is caring. Pintado succeeds in using the genre without resorting to violence or sex, and this story should send readers in search of her other work, though most of it is available only in Spanish. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Havana Noirby Achy Obejas
To most outsiders, Havana is/b>
Brand-new stories by: Leonardo Padura, Pablo Medina, Alex Abella, Arturo Arango, Lea Aschkenas, Moises Asis, Arnaldo Correa, Mabel Cuesta, Yohamna Depestre, Michel Encinosa Fu, Mylene Fernandez Pintado, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Miguel Mejides, Achy Obejas, Oscar F. Ortiz, Ena Lucia Portela, Mariela Varona Roque, and Yoss.??
To most outsiders, Havana is a tropical sin city: a Roman ruin of sex and noise, a parallel universe familiar but exotic, and embargoed enough to serve as a release valve for whatever desire or pulse has been repressed or denied. Habaneros know that this is neither new--long before Havana collapsed during the Revolution's Special Period, all the way back to colonial times, it had already been the destination of choice for foreigners who wanted to indulge in what was otherwise forbidden to them--nor particularly true.
In the real Havana--the lawless Havana that never appears in the postcards or tourist guides--the concept of sin has been banished by the urgency of need. And need--aching and hungry--inevitably turns the human heart darker, feral, and criminal. In this Havana, crime, though officially vanquished by revolutionary decree, is both wistfully quotidian and personally vicious.
In the stories of Havana Noir, current and former residents of the city--some international sensations such as Leonardo Padura, others exciting new voices like Yohamna Depestre--uncover crimes of violence and loveless sex, of mental cruelty and greed, of self-preservation and collective hysteria.
Achy Obejas is the award-winning author of Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, and We Came all the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? Her poems, stories, and essays have appeared in dozens of anthologies. A long-time contributor to the Chicago Tribune, she was part of the 2001 investigative team that earned a Pulitzer Prize for the series, "Gateway to Gridlock." Currently, she is the Sor Juana Writer-in-Residence at DePaul University in Chicago. She was born in Havana.??
Praise for Havana Noir:
Miami Herald, 11/25/07
Sewer-dwelling dwarves who run a black market. An engineer moonlighting as a beautician to make ends meet. Street toughs pondering existentialism. An aging aristocrat with an unsolvable dilemma. A Chinese boy bent on avenging his father's death.
These are the characters you will meet in this remarkable collection, the latest edition of an original noir series featuring stories set in a distinct neighborhood of a particular city. Throughout these 18 stories, current and former residents of Havana -- some well-known, some previously undiscovered -- deliver gritty tales of depravation, depravity, heroic perseverance, revolution and longing in a city mythical and widely misunderstood.
This is noir of a different shade and texture, shadowy and malevolent, to be sure, but desperate, too, heartbreakingly wounded, the stories linked more by the acrid pall of a failed but seemingly interminable experiment than by genre. Ambiguities abound, and ingenuity flourishes even as morality evaporates in the daily struggle for self-preservation.
In this dark light the best of these stories are also the most disturbing. What For, This Burden by Michel Encinosa Fu, a resident of Havana, is a brutal and wrenching tale of brothers involved in drug deals and child prostitution; they peddle their own sister. The Red Bridge, by Yoss, another Havana resident, depicts a violent incident in the lives of two friends with apparently great potential who, though acutely aware of the depravity of their situation, are powerless or unwilling to extract themselves from the mean streets of El Patio.
Cuban engineer Mariela Varona Roque's offering, The Orchid, is a short but powerful tale of the demise of a young boy frequently entrusted to the care of a browbeaten neighbor obsessed with his solitary orchid.
Blues can evoke music, mood, and more, and the 21 stories in Chicago Bluesdisplay the work of some of Chicago's finest mystery writers. Most haunting are those that celebrate the blues as music, including Stuart Kaminsky's "Blue Note," in which a man plays high-stakes poker to prevent the maiming of his blues-singing mother. Longtime series protagonists are featured in tales from Sara Paretsky, Kris Nelscott, J.A. Konrath, and Max Allan Collins, while entries by Barbara D'Amato, David J. Walker, and Michael Allen Dymmoch star cops who may be crooked but are loyal to their own. Superior to Chicago Noir(Akashic, 2005), this should be of interest beyond the Second City area.
Motor City, Motown, Murder City: Detroit's varied faces are revealed in Detroit Noir's 16 stories by natives and/or city residents. A PI looking for a missing teen discovers-and solves-a multiple murder in Loren Estleman's "Kill the Cat." In "Pride" by P.J. Parrish (actually sisters Kris Montee and Kelly Nichols), a female police detective finds her own justice. A man driving his family behind a school bus in Joyce Carol Oates's "Panic" learns that potential violence can be life-changing as well. As these tales reveal, there is murder in even the best neighborhoods. But one of the most memorable entries-"Hey Love" by Detroit middle school teacher Roger K. Johnson-celebrates the Motown label.
Credit Cuban-born Obejas (Days of Awe) with Havana Noir; she edited and introduced it, translated 12 of the 18 stories, and wrote the longest one, about an American "pet foreigner" in Havana who threatens to interfere in a local family's affairs. The cumulative work of these writers(half living in Cuba, most of the others born there) describes a country of (mostly) have-nots, struggling with the rationing imposed after the revolution and doing what they must to survive, usually outside the law. Most poignant are "The Dinner" by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, with its O. Henry-like twist, and "The Scene" by Mylene Fernandez Pintado, featuring a woman caring for her dying mother; most chilling are Mariela Varona Roque's stylish "The Orchid," about a child murderer, and Ena Lucia Portela's "The Last Passenger," describing an anonymous woman's relationship with a serial killer. Noir at its darkest.
Meet the Author
Achy Obejas is the award-winning author of Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, We Came all the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, and editor of Havana Noir. A long-time contributor to the Chicago Tribune, she was part of the 2001 investigative team that earned a Pulitzer Prize for the series, "Gateway to Gridlock."
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Negative is another defibtion for noir