What, one wonders, is the Caribbean point of reference for noir writing, in a region not commonly associated with the genre? Achy Obejas, editor of Havana Noir, pointed out that in this avenue of storytelling, writers have the freedom to cast their city (in this case, the city of Havana prompted and inspired the stories she edited), in all its ironic and gloriously confusing contradictions. This is one of the beauties of noir work, she added: that it is descriptive rather than prescriptive, that it can describe a city or country’s maladies to the letter without feeling the burden of diagnosing one course of treatment over the other. Allen-Agostini chimed in with the grim reminder that, for an island itself founded on the scarred back of criminal conquest, it’s hardly surprising that the stories in Trinidad Noir are so crime-centric: they’re reflecting, without pulling a single punch, the dangers inherent in merely attempting to live in this complex, chaotic space.
The panellists all concur: in the best noir they’ve encountered, there is an amorality that chills.
Kingston Noir is the next Akashic title on the horizon, Temple informed the audience with entirely justified glee: it’s hard not to get excited about a collection that hosts stories from Kwame Dawes, Marlon James, Kei Miller and others. For a region without any discernible recorded noir tradition, he mused, the Caribbean is ripe for these stories, and utterly receptive to their telling. Most writers who contribute to the anthologies seemed to understand this, the panel remarked: that the telling of good tales went beyond open and shut CSI cases, far beyond Law and Order imitations. That’s the message I took away with me: that noir can mean different, subtle, nerve-wracking things across different countries… that, and that so much depends on where you choose to hide the bodies.
Photo by Annie Paul.