Renato Bratkovič and Eddie Vega at the Irish Haven in Brooklyn, where several important scenes from Martin Scorsese‘s crime film The Departed were shot. The area where the Irish pub is located is called Sunset Park. Before 1965, along with neighboring Bay Ridge, it was generally referred to as South Brooklyn. This was the setting of the 20th Century’s greatest literary crime noir novel Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
The film version of Last Exit was shot in Red Hook and the old Todd Ship Yards; the bar scenes were shot in Montero’s, a downtown bar frequented by merchant sailors.
But the novel refers to soldiers shipping out, not merchant sailors. The soldiers passed through the Brooklyn Army Terminal by the water front, about five blocks from the Irish Haven. It also makes a direct reference to the subway entrance on 59th Street and Fourth Avenue.
Bratkovič is the first Slovenian crime writer to make the pilgrimage.
Here is a critical scene from The Departed at the Irish Haven pool table.
Here is Bratkovič at the same pool table, trying to match the pain on DiCaprio’s face.
. . .
Here are some still images from the film…
Trish Kaye Lleone knows true-crime stories. Born and raised in the Philippines, Trish has a finger on the pulse of publishing in Asia and beyond. Today, Trish stops by Noir Nation to share insight into her new memoir, a gripping story about her own tragic struggle with child abuse. Told with stark realism, Finding Anna will take you on an intimate tour through the shadows of the Philippines in the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond.
NN: Your new story Finding Anna is based on your own personal and often tragic experiences growing up in the Philippines. Was it hard to write as you looked back in time?
TKL: It was. I have kept all of the harrowing details to myself for so long because I felt it was the only way to be “normal.” I didn’t realize that although deeply and safely bottled up inside, the effects of what I had gone through manifest in my decision-making, values, principles, and in my own perspectives about life, particularly in my own relationships with others. I was already 36 years old when I realized that. When my partner first suggested writing everything down, I looked at him and thought for a moment he had gone crazy. Was he trying to torture me? But then, I started reading abuse-survivor blogs and many of them attest to the therapeutic value of writing down your own story.
It was difficult not to have moments of disruptive behavior, recalling everything including how each abuse felt, the pain of realizing that all of what I had gone through had a major contribution to the person I have become and the agony of living through the eyes of that little girl again even just for a few hours each day – horrifying and heartbreaking.
NN: Street crime in Asia has always had a noir flavor. Is it because of the densely populated cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Manila? Or does it have something to do with the roots of personal preservation and family honor embodied in the people inside many Asian countries? Since growing up and working in the Philippines, what are your thoughts?
TKL: I would have to say it is mostly poverty-based. As a result of poverty, people cannot afford to get proper education, and later on are not qualified for job positions. This drives them to resort to criminal acts in order to survive. People in rural areas relocate to the metropolis in hopes of escaping poverty; they’re tired of planting sweet potatoes, rice, and bananas from sun up to sun down so they try their luck in the city, only to arrive there without a place to live, without enough money to spend, and without a job that they would be qualified to apply for. They cannot go back to their provinces because they had sold their land or their livestock or are too proud to give up. There will always be reasons to stay in the city, even if it means stealing for food.
Recently, the world knows that a great part of the Visayan region was hard hit by a strong typhoon (Haiyan). People there lost homes, lives, and property. Many of them took the risk of going to Manila; they were captured on the news explaining that there is nothing left for them to remain in their beloved city. I asked myself, what are they going to do in Manila? When they get there, they will find an overpopulated metro that boasts of a higher cost of living and very few to nil job vacancies. It is sad to think this way, but there is a great possibility for most of them to end up as criminals or prostitutes.
NN: Do many Western depictions of Asian crime in stories and film capture the streets and the motivations of their characters accurately, or does an author or filmmaker have to live and breathe the air in this climate to truly capture it?
TKL: I would say authors and filmmakers who attempt at capturing Asian crime stories in film or print must first experience living in Asia to deliver a more accurate depiction. They have to stay not just for a few months, but for a long time to really understand what drives people to do what they do here. Asian culture is vastly different from Western culture. As an example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered the recent Haiyan devastation in central Philippines and he thanked the Filipino people for teaching the world “how to live.” That’s because Cooper witnessed how Filipinos can sleep without beds cushioning their backs, can survive on meager meals and sometimes even miss meals, can hold on to the corpses of their dead loved ones and still display happy demeanors despite the turmoil and the anarchy in their midst. For most of us who grew up and live here, those are ordinary, everyday occurrences. Many poor families don’t care much for a bed to sleep in at night; they can sleep on mats or even pieces of cardboard lined on the floor. I believe that people in Western cultures don’t get to experience this. Even the poorest of the poor receive social welfare assistance in the West, which makes a bed and a decent home to live in affordable, if not free.
NN: You are working toward an English degree and have worked in a variety of publishing and journalist positions in the Philippines. Where do you see the traditional publishing industry going? Have Asian consumers embraced e-books as the consumers have in America? Where do independent and small presses fit in?
TKL: I am a college undergraduate but yes I have worked as a journalist for many years before branching out to online PR and Marketing. To answer your question, traditional publishing will always be there. Readers will always crave for actual books and many authors would still prefer getting traditionally published, although they may self-publish at the same time.
As for me personally, I am a voracious e-book consumer. I prefer e-books than actual books because I can simply buy online and the book will arrive within seconds. Some of my Asian friends read e-books, but I cannot say for sure if Asian consumers have embraced e-books the way American consumers have.
Independent and small presses will not lose their market share if they adapt to the industry’s trends and changes. For example, many of my former colleagues who own news publications are slowly realizing that the way to remain visible in the market is to branch out to the digital world. A few of them have and they tell me that while it is a learning curve for them, it has helped them remain in business. One colleague completely repackaged his product. From merely a business news magazine, he changed it into a lifestyle and business news magazine both online and offline, and it is surprisingly doing very well. Over dinner one time, he expressed how grateful he is for his wife’s ability to foresee the future and how lucky his wife is for having a husband who knows what sound judgment is. He changed his business model a lot earlier than most.
NN: What are some of your favorite films and books?
TKL: Ahh, films! I love timeless classics like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Love Story, The Godfather trilogy, An Affair to Remember, Ratpack, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. I know, that selection gives me away as a hopeless romantic, doesn’t it? What woman isn’t anyway? Lol. Oh, but if it would help, I could watch The Godfather trilogy over and over and over again and won’t get tired of it. I’ve seen it a total of seven times already and I watched all three films after the other in one sitting. Aside from these classics, I also love Legends of the Fall, Star Wars, all Superman films, Iron Man and X-Men. I have HUGE crushes on Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Jackman.
As for books, I am an extensive reader; I have read books by Sidney Sheldon and all the books by Johanna Lindsey, Tom Clancy, and Robert Ludlum. I love The Little Prince, Don Quixote, and The Diary of Anne Frank. I am interested in the biographies of Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few. Lately, I am reading books from new and rising authors such as Jonathan Sturak, Amy Cancryn, Joyce DeBacco, John Jack Wigley, and the ever famous E.L. James. I have no particular favorite, I guess. I just love to read books.
NN: What creative projects are you working on?
TKL: Well, now that I’ve wrapped up work on Finding Anna, my first memoir-based novelette with Firebrand Publishing, I am just about ready to pull out my supposedly first novel, “Dear Tommy,” from the drawer and pick up where I left off. “Dear Tommy” is a story about disrupted adoption, infertility, and a failed marriage. It is one woman’s story of pain, loss, love, and redemption. I am also in the process of creating an outline for another book project; this one is about politicians behind closed doors – you know, the dirty and the despicable.
To Jonathan and the rest of Noir Nation, a huge thank you for this opportunity! It has been a lovely experience for me to be interviewed here and I really had a great time.
All the best!
You can get her new memoir, Saving Anna, on Amazon.
Crime fiction deals with life and death experiences all the time. The very nature of fiction provides the author (and the reader) an escape into the universe of a story. But what happens when these life and death experiences transcend the story and threaten the life of the author?
Chris Abani knows the answer to this question all too well. Chris is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experiences of those born and raised in Africa during its divided past of apartheid and unrest. His first novel, Masters of the Board (1985), portrayed a government coup that eerily resembled a real coup carried out in Nigeria just as the novel was being released. This sounds like a perfect marketing platform for the novel, right? However, for Chris, it meant six months in prison on suspicion of an attempt to overthrow the government, which ultimately led to torture and a sentence on death row!
Today, Chris is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University where he continues to share his voice through award-winning literary works. Recently, he stopped by Noir Nation to share some fascinating insight into his journey as an author, as well as to discuss his exciting new crime novel, The Secret History of Las Vegas.
Noir Nation: Your writing career has spanned decades and started during your childhood in Nigeria. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Chris Abani: I published my first short story at 10 and my first novel at 16, so I guess I’ve always sort of known. But truly I believe all writers come from being avid readers, so that’s probably when the bug bit me. In the end, it doesn’t matter when we know, only that we spend the rest of our lives trying to get good at it.
Noir Nation: Your new crime novel The Secret History of Las Vegas has just been released by Penguin Books. Please tell us about the book.
Chris Abani: It’s Halloween night in Las Vegas when detective Salazar encounters a set of conjoined twins wading in Lake Mead, who upon questioning can’t explain the drum of blood near their pickup. Positive he’s apprehended the killers responsible for a series of murders of Las Vegas’ homeless—which has haunted him for years—Salazar enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. But unknown to Salazar, Singh has been conducting a series of violent experiments on human behavior at a local institute, linking him to the killings.
Over the course of three days, as Singh simultaneously tries to psychoanalyze the twins and ward off Salazar, the implications of his study grow darker, and it becomes clear that he has his own demons to reckon with. Endlessly distressed by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is hard on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.
Noir Nation: Why did you set the story in Las Vegas?
Chris Abani: I love Las Vegas. It is perhaps the last frontier in America, one that is the fringe of a deeper inner self. Vegas gives the impression that everything is possible there, a place of total permission, and yet it is run with the tightest security. It is in many ways the only place left in the U.S. where everyone can feel free. A real place for nomads and transnationals. I could go on, but let’s just say it offers a lot of layers and possibilities.
Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?
Chris Abani: One of the world’s melting pots. A place that always grows and adapts – or else, a city buried under the sand and Lake Mead. All of it is possible.
Noir Nation: Media outlets have dubbed you as part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experiences of those born and raised in “that troubled African nation.” Do you feel this contributes to your creativity as a writer today or do labels inhibit creativity and expression?
Chris Abani: I think that I am a writer who is interested in the places of our common humanity. I have a global perspective and don’t feel I am trying to convey anything to the world. I simply put my humanity on trial with stories that have exciting plots and marginal characters and hope that my readers find a measure of themselves in the work.
Chris holds a BA in English (Nigeria), an MA in Gender and Culture (Birkbeck College, University of London), an MA in English and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing (University of Southern California). He is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University and the recipient of many prestigious literary awards including the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, and a New York Times Editor’s Choice for his novel Song For Night (Akashic, 2007). For more information, visit ChrisAbani.com
The editors have communicated with the writers whose works will be included in Noir Nation No. 3. If you were among them, congratulations. They have also communicated with those whose work didn’t quite fit into this issue. If you were among them, deep regrets. There’s no joy here either.
If you have not received any communication, you might want to query the editors, but it means that your story is being considered for Noir Nation No. 4, which will be appearing shortly after No. 3. Almost back to back. Why?
The remaining stories were very strong and it did not seem fair to reject them simply for lack of space. So we have opened up more space. But it means the wait for confirmation will be longer. If the wait is unbearable, feel free to query and discuss the matter with the editors.