Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Akashic Books Noir Series: Vancouver, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, & Sidney

When Brooklyn-based publisher Akashic Books published Brooklyn Noir, edited by Tim McLoughlin, in 2004, they did not expect that it would be the start of a series.

McLoughlin's concept was to identify local authors who knew Brooklyn's neighborhoods even better than he did, to ask them to write original stories, and as its editor to celebrate his beloved and diverse home.

As it turned out, it was the perfect model for a series, and Akashic used it to identify editors throughout the country and the world who hold their cities as close to the heart as McLoughlin holds Brooklyn.

There are now over 90 volumes in the Noir Series offering sinister literary tours to national and international cities. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.

It has been recognized with nominations and awards throughout the mystery and literary world, from the Shamus, Derringer, macavity, and Anthony Awards to the Pushcart Prize. Two stories published in the series have won the Edgar for Best Short Story, and in 2013, Akashic founder and publisher Johnny Temple was awarded the Ellen Queen Award, a monumental achievement.

We will take a look at four of the latest installments of the Noir Series: Vancouver Noir, edited by Sam Wiebe; Amsterdam Noir, edited by Rene Appel and Josh Pachter; Hong Kong Noir, edited by Jason Y. Ng & Susan Blumberg-Kason; and Sydney Noir, edited by John Dale.

Vancouver Noir
Edited by Sam Wiebe
Akashic Books; 252 pages; hardcover, $32.95; paperback, $15.95

Following the success of Montreal Noir and Toronto Noir, the Noir Series travels to the west coast of Canada.
Vancouver Noir features brand-new stories by Linda L. Richards, Timothy Taylor, Sheena Kamal, Robin Spano, Carleigh Baker, Sam Wiebe, Dietrich Kalteis, Nathan Ripley, Yasuko Thanh, Kristi Charish, Don English, Nick Mamatas, S.G. Wong, and R.M. Greenaway.
Editor Sam Wiebe writes in the introduction, "You might wonder what shadows could exist in Vancouver, rain-spattered jewel of the Pacific Northwest. Nestled between the US border and the Coast Mountains, the city’s postcard charms are familiar, even to those who’ve never been here, thanks to the films and TV shows shot in Hollywood North: The X-Files and Deadpool, Rumble in the Bronx and Jason Takes Manhattan. Vancouver is the so-called City of Glass. A nice place, in any case, and much too nice for noir.
"Looked at from afar, Vancouver may seem idyllic. But living here is different—cold and baffling and occasionally hostile. While outsiders focus on high-test BC bud, locals see a heroin crisis: Vancouver is home to the first legalized safe-injection site in North America, now heavily taxed by overdoses resulting from street drugs cut with fentanyl. It’s ground zero for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a nationwide catastrophe involving the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of marginalized women. Money and status trample culture and community . . . If Vancouver is a City of Glass, that glass is underneath our feet."

Amsterdam Noir
Edited by Rene Appel and Josh Pachter
Akashic Books; 272 pages; paperback, $15.95

Amsterdam is a very welcome, if long overdue, installment, in the Akashic Noir series, as it's a city that has many charms but a well-known seedy side.
Editors RenĂ© Appel and Josh Pachter write in the introduction, "Amsterdam has the amenities and, to a certain extent, the feel of a major world city, but one of its most attractive features is its relatively small size. It’s easy to navigate on feet, by bike, and via its excellent public transportation network, especially with the semicircular perimeter of its famous Grachtengordel, or ring of concentric canals.
"Like any other metropolis, though, Amsterdam also has its dark side, its shadowy corners—in other words, there is also an Amsterdam noir. No matter how beautiful, vital, and cheery a city might be, pure human emotions such as greed, jealousy, and the thirst for revenge will rear their ugly heads . . . with all their negative consequences. Amsterdam is a multidimensional city, populated by a wide assortment of social groups, and not all of those groups agree on what constitutes normal social values and mores. This results in a lively mix . . . and, as you will see, in problems."
There are brand-new stories by: Michael Berg, Anneloes Timmerije, Murat Isik, René Appel & Josh Pachter, Simon de Waal, Hanna Bervoets, Karin Amatmoekrim, Christine Otten, Mensje van Keulen, Max van Olden, Theo Capel, Loes den Hollander, Herman Koch, Abdelkader Benali, and Walter van den Berg.

Hong Kong Noir
Edited by Jason Y. Ng & Susan Blumberg-Kason
Akashic Books; 256 pages; paperback, $15.95

In Hong Kong Noir, fourteen of the city’s finest authors explore the dark heart of the Pearl of the Orient in haunting stories of depravity and despair.
There are brand-new stories by: Jason Y. Ng, Xu Xi, Marshall Moore, Brittani Sonnenberg, Tiffany Hawk, James Tam, Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang, Christina Liang, Feng Chi-shun, Charles Philipp Martin, Shannon Young, Shen Jian, Carmen Suen, and Ysabelle Cheung.
Editors Jason Y. Ng & Susan Blumberg-Kason write in their introduction, "What will Hong Kong look like in five years, ten years, or thirty years—when the “one country, two systems” promise expires? It’s impossible to foresee. Hong Kong’s future may not be within our control, but some things are. We can continue to write about our beloved city and work our hardest to preserve it in words.
"When we asked our contributors to write their noir stories, we didn’t give them specific content guidelines other than to make sure their stories end on a dark note. What we received was a brilliant collection of ghost stories, murder mysteries, domestic dramas, cops-and-robbers tales, and historical thrillers that capture Hong Kong in all its dark glory. The result is every bit as eclectic, quirky, and delightful as the city they write about."

Sydney Noir
Edited by John Dale
Akashic Books; 256 pages; paperback, $15.95

In the first entry from the Akashic Noir Series, Sydney reveals itself to be a world-class hub of noir.
Editor John Dale writes in his introduction, "Nothing lasts in Sydney, especially good fortune: lives are upturned, shops are sold, roads dug up, trees and houses knocked down, premiers discarded, and entire communities relocated in the name of that economic mantra—growth and progress. Just when you think the traffic can’t get any worse and the screech of the 747s descending over your roof can’t get any louder, along comes a wild electrical storm that batters the buildings and shakes the power lines and washes the garbage off the streets and you stand, sheltered under your broken brolly in the center of Sydney, admiring this big beautiful city.
"What never changes, though, is the hustle on the street. My father was a detective in the vice squad shortly after the Second World War, and he told stories of busting SP bookies in Paddington and Surry Hills, collaring cockatoos stationed in the laneways of South Sydney, and arresting sly-groggers. Policing back then was hands-on for the poor and hands-off for the rich. Crime and Sydney have always been inseparable: a deep vein of corruption runs beneath the surface of even its most respectable suburbs."
Sydney Noir is filled with brand-new stories by: Kirsten Tranter, Mandy Sayer, John Dale, Eleanor Limprecht, Mark Dapin, Leigh Redhead, Julie Koh, Peter Polites, Robert Drewe, Tom Gilling, Gabrielle Lord, Philip McLaren, P.M. Newton, and Peter Doyle.

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