I have been a fan of the Akashic Noir series for years and my two rows of my bookshelves groan under their weight. They combine two of my great reading passions, armchair travel and the grim, often mordant, world of noir fiction. It is fascinating, too, to discover how the many different authors interpret noir for their city or their country. In San Juan Noir, the editor Mayra Santos-Febres’ own fascination with the erotic, with gender fluidity and human sexuality played a heavy role in her story selection.
But don’t let that give you the idea there is no variety. The first story begins in the rarefied air of high-rise living with a main character who seldom leaves her apartment or her building, ordering in anything she wants. Other stories feature the poorest of the poor, scrounging what they can on the edges of society. There are tourists, hotel clerks, pimps, prostitutes, fishermen, hitmen, journalists, teachers, and panty-snatchers. All kinds of people are represented and all layers of society.
There is little of the whodunnit in these stories. In fact, they do not resemble anything like traditional mysteries. These are stories drenched in the moody waters of noir, rich in emotion, passion,love, fear, and despair. They are the stories of life on the edge, sometimes slipping, sometimes sliding, sometimes leaping and sometimes soaring right over the edge.
I have never been to San Juan, Puerto Rico, but I traveled some of its streets in these stories. Of course, the city is more than noir. That’s what I love about the Akashic Noir stories, these are not the Tourist Bureau stories of the city. They are gritty, sometimes nasty, sometimes gross, but always interesting.
San Juan Noir is certainly the most frankly sexual of all the Noir editions I have read. There are some scenes that are very graphic, very erotic. This is not a book to gift your Aunt Irene. But then, you’re going to want to keep it for yourself anyway.
For the first time, Akashic Books released their anthology in both English and Spanish. I read about half the stories in the English edition and the other half in the Spanish edition. Some stories I read in both editions. I have to admit this was more difficult to read in Spanish than anything I have read before, except for some Old Spanish literature when they used “f” for “h” and “x” for “j”. There were idioms that baffled me, so I am so glad to have both versions to read.
San Juan Noir will be released on October 4th. I received an e-galley of both editions from the publisher through Edelweiss.
- The Akashic Noir Series at Akashic Noir books.
- San Juan Noir at Akashic Books
- San Juan Noir (Spanish Language Edition) at Akashic Books
- Mayra Santos-Febres bio at Akashic Books
- Mayra Santos-Febres personal web site (Spanish)
- English language interview with Mayra Santos-Febres at Los Afro-Latinos