Sacred Skin at Wat Bang Phra: An interview with Aroon Thaewchatturat

Aroon Thaewchatturat, who contributed her tattoo photography to Noir Nation No. 2,  discusses sacred tattoos, called sak yant in Thailand, speaks in this video about the animating totem spirits that possess believers during a religious rite. She co-authored with Tom Vater, Sacred Skin, the first English language book on Thailand’s sacred tattoos. Sacred Skin has been reviewed in more than 30 publications, including Time Magazine, and has been the subject of two documentaries, Arte and Die Zeit.

The interview took place at Wat Bang Phra, a Buddhist temple in Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand, about 50 km west of Bangkok.

Below is the book trailer for Sacred Skin. It offers an incredibly rich preview of Aroon’s sublime images.


Film noir actor Herbot Lom, who played boss in Pink Panther movies, is dead at 95

From The New York Times

Herbert Lom, the versatile Czech-born actor who could play Napoleon Bonaparte or a witch hunter with equal aplomb but who was perhaps best known as Peter Sellers’s frustrated boss in the “Pink Panther” franchise, died on Thursday at his home in London. He was 95.

His son Alec confirmed his death, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Lom gained more attention as a reliable character actor than as a suave leading man, although he was both. His deep-set, mesmerizing eyes made him the perfect villain in a series of minor films in the early 1940s, and he went on to excel after World War II and in the 1950s and ’60s in small roles in a variety of genres. In a career of more than five decades he appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows.

He was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in 1917 to upper-class parents in Prague. (Various sources give his date of birth as Jan. 9 and Sept. 11). He became a theater actor and made one movie in his native Czechoslovakia before emigrating to London in 1939, just before the Nazis invaded (and shedding more than 40 letters from his name along the way). His parents survived and later joined him in London, but his girlfriend died in a concentration camp.

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Crime writer gets caught reviewing his own books on Amazon

From The Guardian

Crime bestseller caught using sock puppets to trash colleagues and hymn his own ‘magnificent’ work

Bestselling authors including Lee Child, Ian Rankin and Joanne Harris are queuing up to condemn the posting of reviews under false identities after it emerged this weekend that the award-winning crime writer RJ Ellory had been criticising his rivals and praising his own work under pseudonyms on Amazon.

Ellory, who won the Theakstons Old Peculier crime novel of the year prize in 2010 for his novel A Simple Act of Violence, was exposed by the crime writer Jeremy Duns on Twitter for posting reviews on Amazon under various identities. Under the pseudonym “Nicodemus Jones”, Ellory called his own novel A Quiet Belief in Angels a “modern masterpiece” and said that readers should “just buy it, read it and make up your own mind”, because “whatever else it might do, it will touch your soul”. “All I will say is that there are paragraphs and chapters that just stopped me dead in my tracks,” he wrote. “Some of it was chilling, some of it raced along, some of it was poetic and langorous and had to be read twice and three times to really appreciate the depth of the prose … it really is a magnificent book.”

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When the political becomes the criminal, Noir Nation looks for the art

Recently, Egyptian-American  journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for defacing a racist poster placed in the Times Square subway station by Pamela Geller, the leader of an incendiary political group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Click here for the story details. The woman in the video defending the hate ad is a Geller activist named Pamela Hall.

In placing the racist posters in highly public places, where they would surely garner international attention, at a time when the world has become a tinderbox, Ms. Geller has joined herself at the hip with Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the producer of the  Innocence of Muslims trailer, a man who an Israeli government official called a blithering idiot.

Ms. Geller’s poster ad is a form of hate speech that while legal under New York law is nevertheless reprehensible.

Ms. Eltahawy’s spray can response, a form of ad hoc sociopolitical art, consistent with the tradition of subway graffiti and quite illegal under New York law, turned the vile poster into a thing of visual beauty. A true marriage of art and political protest. (We look forward to the auction.)

Mona Eltahawy, defender of anti-hate graffiti

We were reminded of the scene in the Bruce Lee film, Fist of Fury, where the Lee character, Chen Zhen, is barred from entering a public park. A guard points to a sign explaining the reason: No Dogs or Chinese Allowed. Zhen tears the sign off the entrance wall and destroys it with a flying kick.

There is a long tradition of destroying patently racist signs posted by those with money and authority. Regardless, Noir Nation does not advocate or condone the destruction of private property to make political points. We advocate only crimes of the imagination in the literary and visual arts, so that through Aristotelian catharsis there may be fewer actual ones.

Pamela Hall, defender of hate ads

In the meantime, as an unapologetic proponent of free speech everywhere in the world, Noir Nation holds that the way to counter the speech of blithering idiots is with speech that is sensible and intellectually sound. Historically, reason wins, idiocy loses.

So what to do about the Geller poster? Counter idiocy with reason. How about having volunteers stand by the ads — there are only ten of them — not with spray cans, but with flyers articulating a counter-position? Perhaps a statement that speaks to a universal desire to be free of daily insults and taunts?

As W.H. Auden presciently wrote in his poem, “September 1, 1939,” whose title references the day when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and started World War II,

And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.


Update No. 1: New York City has adjusted it’s subway advertising policy so that the kind of racist ads sponsored by Pamela Geller and defended by Pamela Hall are now banned. Click here for more.

Update No. 2: New York Times columnist David Carr calls the Geller poster, “racist and dumb.” His colleague, A. O. Scott, says Eltahawy’s response is a form of expression, consistent with a noisy public square and with democracy.


Tereska Torrès, writer of noir Lesbian romp, is dead at 92

From The New York Times:

Tereska Torrès, a convent-educated French writer who quite by accident wrote America’s first lesbian pulp novel, died on Thursday at her home in Paris. She was 92.

Tereska Torres

Tereska Torres

Her family announced the death.

Though she wrote more than a dozen novels and several memoirs, Ms. Torrès remained inadvertently best known for “Women’s Barracks,” published in the United States in 1950 as a paperback original.

The book is a fictionalized account of the author’s wartime service in London with the women’s division of the Free French forces. Though its sexual scenes appear tame to 21st-century eyes, the author’s forthright depiction of the liaisons of the women in her unit with male resistance members — and with one another — scandalized midcentury America.

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KillerCon 4 Stabs Las Vegas

KillerCon has left its mark in 2012. This was the fourth year that writers, readers, and publishers met in Sin City to take a stab at genres of fiction in the horror realm. The boundaries of horror fiction include everything from the slightly unnerving to the greatly gruesome. Horror and noir coincide like a private eye and a bottle of whiskey. Horror exists in noir and noir exists in horror.

This year, guests included F. Paul Wilson, who has authored more than 40 books in the horror and thriller genres, as well as Kelley Armstrong, author of the crime thriller Exit Strategy, among others. The gathering occupied the conference space on the 24th floor of the Stratosphere from September 20 – 23. With the 90-degree heat attacking the tourists outside, cold, dark, and shifty shadows filled the minds of some of the best horror fiction connoisseurs in the world. I wonder what the hotel guests on the 24th floor of the Stratosphere thought when they saw zombies staggering down the hallway, courtesy of make-up and FX artist Mike McCarty.

Check out the KillerCon blog for more details on this year’s event and to plan for KillerCon 5!

On writing and rattlesnakes: Renato Bratkovič interviews Eddie Vega

In an interview that Paul D. Brazill calls, “great and meaty,” screenwriter Renato Bratkovič draws startling responses from Noir Nation‘s own Eddie Vega.

The interview was published in the bilingual Slovene literary journal, RadikalNews.

To read the English version click here. For the Slovene version click here.


An insightful article about Indian crime films by Nirpal Dhaliwal

Writing for The Guardian, Nirpal Dhaliwal offers a thorough and insightful analysis of the latest developments in the Indian crime film industry, the seriousness with which its film products are being taken outside of India, increasing government censorship, and societal hypocrisy, especially as it relates to the role of women and what is expected of female actors.

Our take-away from this exquisite article is that Indian crime films have evolved beyond the Bollywood films — which are institutionally corny but have lots of heart — and have matured to a point where they can have a powerful influence on the direction that international crime films take in the coming years.

Below are clips of Gandu, the censored film noir rap gangsta movie referenced in Nirpal Dhaliwal’s article: