Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Post by Nancy Farrell: Introducing the Noir Series from Akashic Books

One wouldn't usually expect the most recent, surprising, and ground-breaking noir series to be published by a small press; yet, that's exactly what Akashic Books has done with their location-specific Noir Series, a series that began with the award-winning Brooklyn Noir anthology in 2004, and has since gone on to visit American and international locations alike: Dublin, Wall Street, Queens, Rome, San Francisco, with anthologies forthcoming based in St. Petersburg, Long Island, and so on. Most recently the press struck gold with their Haiti Noir anthology, edited by celebrated Hatian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. The anthology received excellent reviews in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as a mention in Oprah Magazine.

So what exactly does a long-running noir series include and how has it become so successful with mainstream audiences? Well, Akashic Books has taken an interesting editorial vision regarding how it presents noir, what it considers noir, and who it selects to edit these volumes. Essentially, the publisher has greatly expanded what it considers to be noir: a woeful, dark story that ends unhappily. Certainly, many stories in the series have a criminal and violent feel, but there are also many stories that seem quieter and painful in other noir-ish ways. Diehard fans of noir might find those stories to be a bit tepid; however, consider the mainstream success of the anthology, and you can see how other readers might appreciate the subtler stories as well. Overall, the anthologies have a good mix of stories.

Secondly, the publisher has sought out a variety of factors to influence the feel of each collection: specifically the guest editors, from crime mainstays like Dennis Lehane to the aforementioned Edwidge Danticat, a literary writer who has made her name writing subtler fictions, and the settings. The tastes of each editor significantly influence the feel of each manuscript, just like the atmosphere of each location lends its own feel. Imagine the differences you'd feel in, say, Baltimore versus San Francisco, and that will give you an idea as to how the anthologies differ as well. Think of each editor as a guide, who has selected certain parts of the city to show you. In this way, the series has been able to go on for quite some time without seeming tired or repetitive.

If you're at all interested in taking a peek at this series, I recommend starting with either the original Brooklyn Noir anthology or the Haiti Noir anthology. If you're still interested, you can read an excerpt of Pete Hamill's story, "The Book Signing," which appeared in Brooklyn Noir; hopefully that will be enough to whet your appetite!

Author Bio:
Nancy Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to criminal justice schools, which discusses about child abuse, human rights, divorce, and crime related articles. Questions or comments can be sent to: nancy.farrell13@gmail.com.

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