Kingston Noirby Colin Channer
"Kingston Noir subverts the simplistic sunshine/reggae/spliff-smoking image of Jamaica at almost every turn...The collection amply rewards the reader with a rich interplay of geographies/i>/i>/b>
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"Thoroughly well-written stories...fans of noir will enjoy this batch of sordid tales set in the sweltering heat of the tropics."
"Kingston Noir subverts the simplistic sunshine/reggae/spliff-smoking image of Jamaica at almost every turn...The collection amply rewards the reader with a rich interplay of geographies and themes."
--The Los Angeles Times
"Kingston Noir goes darker and deeper than any before...the purest of noir, and the richest depictions of Jamaica."
--The Huffington Post
Kingston Noir is an eclectic and gritty melange of tales that sears the imagination . . . Kingston Noir proves its worth as a quintessential piece of West Indian literaturerich, artistic, timeless, and above all, draped in unmistakable realism.”
--The Gleaner (Jamaica)
"Drop your energetically touted 'best of' Jamaica brochures and sink your teeth into noir that bites back: the eleven wicked, wild, and unrepentant stories in Kingston Noir feature the talents of eminent voices in Jamaican fiction."
"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."
"Several of the stories in Kingston Noir succeed brilliantly in reproducing the simultaneously estranging and horrifying effects of urban violence in Jamaica. And there is something appropriately unsettling about the differences between the stories, collected and edited by Colin Channer, such that the sense of being dislodged somewhere puzzlingly dissimilar from the place one began sometimes mimics the feeling of moving through Kingston traversing this collection as if going 'down the road,' with all the abrupt stops, shifts, and turns that Jamaicanism implies, does offer a way of connecting, piece by piece, story by story, to fragments of the city tucked away in consciousness and memory. It is a city rarely encountered in fiction; this collection satisfies a need and makes one hungry for more."
--sx salon: a small axe literary platform
"There is much to be admired in this anthology. Technically, the standard is very high throughout, but in several of the stories the writing soars."
Original stories by: Marlon James, Kwame Dawes, Patricia Powell, Colin Channer, Marcia Douglas, Leone Ross, Kei Miller, Christopher John Farley, Ian Thomson, Thomas Glave, and Chris Abani.
From Trench Town to Half Way Tree to Norbrook to Portmore and beyond, the stories of Kingston Noir shine light into the darkest corners of this fabled city. Joining award-winning Jamaican authors such as Marlon James, Leone Ross, and Thomas Glave are two "special guest" writers with no Jamaican lineage: Nigerian-born Chris Abani and British writer Ian Thomson. The menacing tone that runs through some of these stories is counterbalanced by the clever humor in others, such as Kei Miller's White Gyal with a Camera,” who softens even the hardest of August Town’s gangsters; and Mr. Brown, the private investigator in Kwame Dawes’s story, who explains why his girth works to his advantage: "In Jamaica a woman like a big man. She can see he is prosperous, and that he can be in charge." Together, the outstanding tales in Kingston Noir comprise the best volume of short fiction ever to arise from the literary wellspring that is Jamaica.
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Akashic BooksCopyright © 2012 Akashic Books
All right reserved.
IntroductionWhat If? Why Would?
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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Meet the Author
Colin Channer is a father, fiction writer, and occasional essayist. His books include the novel Waiting In Vain, a critic's choice selection of the Washington Post, and the novella The Girl with the Golden Shoes. His other writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Times Literary Supplement. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he has lived in the U.S. since the early 1980s. He's the editor of the fiction anthology Iron Ballons, and coeditor with Kwame Dawes of the poetry anthology So Much Things to Say.
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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.