Book Review: Kingston Noir (Akashic Noir)
Publication Date: May 29, 2012
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Imprint: Akashic Books
Publisher: Akashic Books
Parent Company: Akashic Books
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Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
With his first anthology for Akashic, Iron Balloons, Colin Channer, author of the celebrated novel, Waiting In Vain, showcased the full range of contemporary Jamaican literature. Now, with his follow-up collection, he sharpens his focus with a gathering of tales from such stellar writers such as Marlon James, Kwame Dawes, Marcia Douglas, Kei Miller, Leone Ross, Christopher John Farley, Ian Thomson and Thomas Glave.
In Channer’s introduction, he sets the bar very high, recruiting capable storytellers who know the city of Kingston 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.” (pp. 14)
Award-winning Ghanaian-Jamaican poet, Kwame Dawes’ heart-stopping story, “Oh Lord,” details an estranged husband’s courageous love for an AIDS-stricken woman, a choice which will turn his life upside down. White entitlement is the theme of Kei Miller’s outrageous “The White Gyal With The Camera,” which puts a clueless white female photographer in the nexus of danger with a group of local gang members, who she promptly wins over.
A Kingston native, Leone Ross makes every sentence and every image count in her story, “Roll It,” as she reveals the accumulative mystery of a man’s model wife in all her splendor. In a manner worthy of crime mavens Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard, Marlon James, the author of The Book of Night Women, pulls off the complex case of a dead girl found with her skirt up and her panties down and the person who puts her body there under a mini-bus is a total surprise. Ian Thomson’s “A Grave Undertaking” is a tongue-in-cheek comic romp of a father, whose body is supposed to be shipped from Jamaica but a comedy of errors leaves more questions than answers. Man-on-man sex and the “well brought-up” Norbrook girl who saw what she was not supposed to see forms the crux of Thomas Glave’s racy “Leighton Leigh Anne Norbrook.” And then there is the master himself, Colin Channer’s “Monkey Man,” a classic tale of seduction with a 45-year-old movie vixen with her production crew and a nasty encounter of roughhouse action before cooler heads prevail.
These short stories edited by Channer are passionate, funny, tragic, and completely electric. The complicated city of Kingston is well represented by the writers assembled here. This is a remarkable collection.