Monday, September 13, 2021

Pop, Six, Squish, Uh uh, Cicero, Lipschitz!

 So, when I was looking up Fourth Down and Out, both Amazon and the library suggested Andrew Welsh-Huggins edited Columbus Noir, part of a much larger series of noir anthologies set in different cities around the US. (I kind of doubt Columbus is big on that list; given the series started in 2013 and Columbus is 2019....)

Anyway, while the stories are ok, and set in places I know, not many of them would be what I'd consider noir. No leggy women coming in to a detective's office, and leading him by the nose into trouble, no real black humor, no jazz playing in the background...

No, we mostly get women murdering their boyfriends or husbands, or getting other men to do it for them. Admittedly, some of it is interesting, like the editor's story about the governor cheating on his wife, and how his aide takes care of the problem on behalf of the governor's wife after he sleeps with her...

Oh yes. Almost none of the people in here are faithful. With a few exceptions, like Yolonda Tosette Sanders' Whitehall story that involves an alcoholic woman trying to solve her brother's murder years later, most of this is people killing off significant others, either theirs or someone else's. Usually over drugs, sex, but occasionally real estate. (Craig McDonald's German Village story being a major example of this.)

I was again sad that, even in Columbus's Gayborhoods, very few gay people played a major part in any of the stories. (One minor exception being Daniel Best's story set in the Short North, but even then the gay person in question in playing sugar daddy to his drug dealer, shows up for 2 paragraphs, then we get back to the felon killing his business partner and sleeping with said guy's wife.) This made me doubly sad, given how much queer coding was built into the old noir and pulp fictions that inspired this anthology. 

On the other hand, Khalid Moalim's North Side story does address several real life issues while giving us a parable on how gossip ruins lives. (In this case, a Somali girl who's much more assimilated makes her father angry by getting engaged to a black man. While this resolves itself in one dead body, and two important people in her life going to prison, it is a look at the weird dichotomy of how African immigrants deal with BIPOC in a culture where they themselves are often viewed as BIPOC.)

Do I wish it was more like what I was hoping for? Yes. I would have even settled for more realistic Tales From the Crypt style stories, where the morality play is there, but wrapped in such shenanigans to make it easier to swallow.

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