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I lived in Kingston from 1963 to 1982. I was born there—at St. Joseph's on Deanery Road, delivered by Dr. Parboosingh. I was christened there as well, by Reverend Campbell at Christ Church on Antrim Road. My hometown was also where I first had sex. This happened in the small room I shared with my brother in a hot prefabricated house in Hughenden. No—I'm not going to share her name.
One of the things I remember most about my years in Kingston, in addition to the fact that I'd faked my orgasm that first time so I could go back to reading a comic book, is that this metropolis of half a million in those days had no directional signs. As such, people would get lost all the time, even those who'd grown up there, but especially those who had not.
Which way to public horse-pit-all? Which part you turn fo' reach the zoo? Carib theater—is where that is?
And the answer to these questions always seemed to go along the following (squiggly) line: "Okay ... you going go down so where I pointing, then you going see a man with a coconut cart. When you see him now, you going turn, but not turn all the way, just part way, cause you going see a fence that kinda break down. But you not going stop there at the fence, y'know. You only going see it. You going see it, then you going pass. You going pass it till you reach the gully. But when you reach the gully now, what you going do is wheel round till you see the big tree. Listen me good here now. Cross the street when you see the big tree, because you have some man out there who will hold you up. Then after you cross the street now, go on and go on, and go on, then turn again, then turn again, then stay straight. Stay straight until you see where the road turn. But you mustn't turn. You must stay straight ... and then if you still can't find where you going, just aks again."
Today, the largest English-speaking city between Miami and Buenos Aires has lots of signs. Even so, if you're not from there it's still easy to get lost.
This is one of many ways in which Kingston reminds me of New Orleans. Like its cultural cousin on the Mississippi, Kingston is a liquor-loving, music-maddened, seafood-smitten, class-addicted place. Dangerous as a mutha, but also—especially when you feel a cool wind coming off the harbor, or see a cape of mist on the shoulders of the northern hills, or hear a bongo natty singing praises to the Father as some herb smoke warms his heart—a place of Benedictine peace.
Every story in this collection was written (and rewritten, and rewritten, and damn rewritten, Colin) by an author who knows and understands this charismatic, badass city very well. In addition to having this intimate knowledge, the eleven writers share something else—a fascination with the city's turbulent dynamics, with the way its boundaries of color, class, race, gender, ideology, and sexual privilege crisscross like storm-tangled power lines.
Still, each story is driven by its unique why would or what if.
Why would a man sleep with a woman knowing she has HIV? Why would anyone throw a school girl's corpse beneath a bus? What if a European photographer takes it on herself to document a neighborhood controlled by gangs? What if an American actress wakes up to find herself gagged and bound in a stranger's bed?
Speaking of questions. As editor there were a few big ones I had to ask. Perhaps the most important one was, How will I proceed?
Some editors think of anthologies as potluck dinners. They send out general invitations. Encourage everyone to bring a favorite dish.
I've been to that dinner party. I know how it goes. Some things are great. Some things are awful. But most things are so-so.
Now why would I want to do something like that? I thought. At the same time I thought, What if? What if I thought of Kingston Noir as a great LP? Ahhhhh ...
As I did with Iron Balloons, my first anthology for Akashic, I began with a simple understanding: few writers would be called, and even fewer would be chosen. Because nothing less than a classic would do.
Colin Channer May 2012
Excerpted from Kingston Noir Copyright © 2012 by Akashic Books. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 7, 2013
Some of these stories are mysterious, some are straightforward, but all are dark. There isn’t a single light-hearted story in the bunch, which falls in line perfectly with the noir theme. Readers beware, there are some stories in this book that address the darkest parts of human nature: rape, torture, murder. It’s not for the faint of heart. However, they are all well-written and tap into the true underbelly of another culture.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.