Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reading Journal: Mumbai Noir, Ed. Altaf Tyrewala (2011)

The second I've read of the burgeoning number of Akashic anthologies, and one that I liked even less than the first one I tried (Toronto, previously reviewed in this space). I'm not sure I've got a strong enough grasp on what constitutes the noir genre to know a good story from a bad one, but in general I can recognize bad writing, and a few of these stories were cringe-worthy. The ones I liked most were in the book's second part, "Dangerous Liaisons," and beyond, where the stories most prominently take on that sexual charge I understand to be compulsory in the genre; most stories from here on involve a prostitute and a gender-bending relationship, with R. Raj Rao's "TZP" perhaps the most successful, a transgressive tale where a partner's dark past comes to light. Others worth noting: Avtar Singh's "Pakeezah," a simple story but incredibly well told from the drunk-guy-on-the-barstool-next-to-you-just-starts-talking perspective that I'm a sucker for; Jerry Pinto's politically-tinged closer, "They," about a series of robberies and a murder at a gym, and "The Watchman," by the editor himself, about a security guard who can't shake an ominous feeling about his workday. As a whole, though, the group of stories kind of bored me, which I think is too bad for noir; if nothing else, they're supposed to be page-turners that let the plot suck you in. And while I've been looking forward to reading the volumes set in cities I've been to (Seattle, and particularly, New Orleans), I've come into an old copy of the Las Vegas edition that I'll be pushing through first. If it also disappoints, I may throw in the towel on this series.     

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