The Noir Nation India Issue is here

noir nation is hereThe much anticipated Noir Nation No. 3 — The India Issue — has hit the Amazon Marketplace. Click here or on the image above to have a look.

The issue contains over thirty entries from some of the very best literary crime fiction writers in the world, among them Suparn Verma, Samrat X, Yaeer Talker, Bianca Bellova, JJ Toner, Richard Godwin, Simon Rowe, Graham Wynd, David Siddell, and Meah Cross; as well as ace contributions from emerging noir writers Alastair Keen, Terrence P. McCauley, Frauke Schuster, Ryan Gattis, Chelsea L. Clemmons, Gila Green, Paul Alexander, Carmen Tudor, and Anthony Pioppi; and established hard-boiled wunderkinds Jonathan Sturak, Ed Lynsky, Mark Mellon, Christopher L. Irvin, and Nik Korpon, The issue also includes essays on noir-related poetry, music, and the visual arts by Atar Hadari, Vicki Gundrum, and Robert Brunet and two works of classic noir: “The Turkish Brothel” by the late Cortright McMeel and “The Perfect Courtesan” by Kshemendra.

Here is snippet from the issue, the introduction by Eddie Vega:

 A Search for Beauty, Dark and Brutal

Noir Nation is a search for beauty, dark and brutal. We can hear the initial call in these lines from W.B. Yeats’ masterful poem “Easter 1916”:

In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

There is a turning away from the light and the banal, the casual comedy, and a turning to the murderous passions and dark depravities of human nature and transgressive political bodies. In real life, such turns result in death, disfigurement, and prison. In literature, we can live and relive the mechanics vicariously and safely through the prism of the imagination. Even Grimm’s Fairy Tales had dark elements which helped children prepare for both the magic of life and its harsh realities. Cheerful weddings are counter-balanced by the cries of funeral birds.

In any case, the very definition of noir varies depending on whom we ask. Many will relate it to U.S. crime films arising from German expressionism, D.O.A., The Big Combo, and The Maltese Falcon, among others—and books by certain writers, such as David Goodis, Georges Simenon, James M. Cain, and, among the more literary set, Celine, and among the more drunken set, Charles Bukowski. There seems to be an effort, coming really from the academy, to classify it according to these 20th Century referents. But there are powerful elements of noir in Gilgamesh, The Cambodian Book of the Dead, The Book of Ecclesiastes, The Book of Job, and the mother of them all, Dante’s Inferno. In the visual arts, it spurts like dark blood through the works of Goya, Caravaggio, and Artemisia Gentileschi—who took vengeance on male figures in her paintings after being raped by her tutor—as well as Theodore Gericault, whose Raft of the Medusa depicts a horrific scene based on an actual historical event where many shipwrecked passengers died and the rest survived by eating the dead bodies. More recently, Edward Hopper, Jack Vettriano, and Peter Illig have moved the subject matter closer to elements familiar to crime pulp: isolation, voyeurism, sex.

But for us the kernel of noir lies in Federico Garcia Lorca’ seminal essay, “Theory and Play of the Duende.”

Duende is the dark goblin spirit that animates the deep song of Flamenco, songs soaked in human misery, and that my mother loved to listen to. It is also the ragged genie that animates artistic and religious expressions about crime and punishment. It is the ax of Raskolnikov and the Necklace of Kali. Lorca wrote that it wouldn’t appear unless it could see the possibility of death and that it loved the edge of the wound.

Lorca argues that there are two angels that animate art, the bright angels and the dark angels. They are both important to art’s creation. But of the two, the dark angels are more interesting. History indicates he is right. For example, Catholic scholars have argued that Dante’s Paradiso is the most important part of his Divine Comedy, a work clearly animated by the bright angels. That may be true. But it is The Inferno, the first part—where evil acts are punished by brutal means—that excites the imagination and that has had the more lasting impact on world literature.

So the definition of noir can be very broad—anything that is dark and/or transgressive—a fact that no doubt annoys some academics who need well-defined categories for their lectures, panel discussions, and articles for scholarly journals. They need a workable definition. Crime Noir, for example, has a more limited scope than simply Noir. With crime noir, there must be a crime or the possibility of one. It can’t just have the dark mood of Ecclesiastes. There must be a violation of the civic or moral law.

On television, The Sopranos, The Wire, Law & Order, and Breaking Bad, are among the most popular TV shows in history. Aesthetically, many crime films and television shows have a noirish feel, which they create not only with deft use of shadows but also with the use of cool light that relies on the blue spectrum (the original CSI with William Peterson offers good examples of these elements). Many of these shows are available internationally.

But we don’t see this as an exclusively U.S. phenomenon. Crime noir has ancient and aboriginal roots in Japan, India, Spain, Mexico, Cambodia, indeed just about every country in the world. What we are seeing today is an exquisite confluence of all these cultural rivers forming an Amazon of Noir. Its most potent stream comes from India and her large cities, Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai.

With over 1.2 billion residents, India is not only the world’s most copious producer of crime pulp, it is also its hungriest consumer. Even in her chirpy feel-good Bollywood films, guns and gangsters vie with the singing and the dancing. Although the work of many Indian writers of crime noir are not to be found in fashionable bookstores—next to the hardcover books of Jhumpa Lahiri, Salmon Rushdie, and Vikram Seth—they are in much more popular spots: the stalls and book carts of A H Wheeler & Co found among the 8,000 railway stations that serve India’s 25 million daily commuters riding 71,000 miles of uneventful track. That is India’s open secret: crime novels stay close to their devouring readers. This needs commemorating.

Hence Noir Nation No. 3: The India Issue. Dark, brutal, and beautiful to the eye that loves the shadows—where the dark angels flock.

Eddie Vega
Brooklyn, NY

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An interview with Nick Arvin, builder of novels and power plants

Noir Nation’s managing editor Cortright McMeel sat down with literary wunderkind Nick Arvin — a  writer, an engineer, a literary savant and versatile truth-seeker — to discuss Arvin’ brand of Noir and what the genre means to him. Arvin’s new novel The Reconstructionist was just published this March to great literary acclaim. Amazon added it to their Book of the Month list. His oeuvre ranges from war novels (Article of War), to literary short stories (In the Electric Eden) to his newest novel, which could best be described as an exploration of where the collision physics of car crash science meet love, revenge, and death in America’s heartland.

Noir Nation: What does Noir mean to you.

Nick Arvin: Crime, mystery, doomed romance, tough guys, the streets, schemes, death, pursuit, tragedy, irony, danger, dread — a list like that could go on for pages without really getting the thing.

There’s a certain feeling associated with great noir. It’s not a feeling that the characters experience, but a feeling created in the reader — it’s a feeling of a certain kind of paranoia, a claustrophobic paranoia. Not a paranoia of grand plots, government helicopters, alien mind control, but instead a smaller, closer paranoia — that the world may be even darker than you knew, a pervasive darkness that reaches intimately into everyone and everything. Great noir, when you put the book down or the movie ends, leaves that feeling of claustrophobic paranoia inside you, so that you find yourself glancing over your shoulder, questioning the motives of those you love, watching for the random accident that is the manifestation of physics’ conspiracy against you. And of course it’s inside ourselves, too, and the real secret that noir knows is this: you don’t need a grand conspiracy to betray you, because in the end you always betray yourself.

That’s noir to me — not a particular set of plot elements and themes, but a feeling. It’s a feeling that can be created by a book like The Big Sleep, but it can also happen in a painting or music or a place (for example, the deeply strange museum in Wisconsin, the House on the Rock).

My new novel, The Reconstructionist, isn’t strictly traditional noir by most measures, yet it’s often been described as noir, and I think this feeling of paranoia is the reason. One of the things I wanted to do in the book is get into the reader’s head with a reminder that even an ordinary life in modern America is dangerous and compromised to an extent that we mostly ignore or forget.

Noir Nation: Many of your stories and your novel, The Reconstructionist, take place in the Midwest. Does the Midwest lend itself to a noir sensibility? If so, how?

Nick Arvin: Cities gorgeous with rot, low gray skies, small towns and city neighborhoods where everyone halfway knows everyone else, nouveau poverty and old poverty, the toughness and duplicity of stoicism, great swathes of empty land where any kind of strangeness can hide in plain sight, hunters and mobsters and unions and gangs and militias and “regular” folk — how could such people and settings not lend themselves to noir?

Noir Nation: You are a literary writer and just on a panel at Lighthouse Writers Workshop called Death Match: Literature vs. Genre Fiction. Can you discuss the elements of that discussion to NN readers? What is your attitude towards “genre” crime fiction? Please discuss strengths and weaknesses.

Nick ArvinRobert GreerConnie Willis, and Nic Brown were also on the panel, and it was a great discussion, a blast. On the one hand everyone agrees that the literary/genre distinction is a false dichotomy, created by the publishing industry for marketing purposes. But on the other hand, literary writers can’t help feeling a little jealous of the popularity of stuff labeled genre, and genre writers can’t help feeling a little jealous of the perceived respectability of stuff labeled literary. So the division may have been created artificially, the way the colonial powers drew lines to make nations, but now the line exists and two sides still can’t help attacking across it a little, or a lot, depending on the personalities involved. (Our panel was quite congenial until the end, when Nic Brown suggested that the death of a robot will always be less meaningful than the death of a human, and then all hell broke loose.)

I think that the genre/literary distinction is arbitrary not because any fiction can be literary but because all fiction is genre. I can’t think of a book that doesn’t owe something to established conventions and tropes. Those conventions might come from noir or Sci-Fi, or they might come from romantic comedies or war stories or chick lit or westerns or domestic dramas or campus comedies or sports stories or postmodernism or etc. The question isn’t whether a book will relate itself to the conventions of one genre or another, but HOW it will address those conventions, or mix them, or update them, or thwart them.

Noir Nation: In your view what is the “perfect” noir tale?

Nick Arvin: I hate picking between great works because it’s like trying to choose between air and water, but I’ll tell you what I’ve been thinking about lately, because I’ve been thinking about noir and I’ve also been thinking about Sci-Fi — Blade Runner. Blade Runner creates the noir feeling of claustrophobic paranoia as well as any movie ever has, but the genius of the movie is the way it combines that feeling with Sci-Fi’s embrace of big ideas and questions, about the nature of humanity, the role of God, our place in the universe. It’s a tricky combination to pull off. There are other good examples (China Miéville’s The City and the City but Blade Runner does it as seamlessly and perfectly as anything I’ve seen.

Noir Nation Your fiction has been called “icy smooth,” “brilliantly detached,” and “colder and more real than the loneliness of life itself.” What is it that drives your tonality?

NA: My brain. My brain has two halves. I like Julian Jaynes’ theory that consciousness arose from the breakdown of the bicameral mind — basically, when the left brain began to dialog with the right brain, consciousness was the result. And I believe fiction is deeply rooted in an exploration of consciousness.

I’m a writer, but I’m also an engineer. In my day job I design power plants and oil and gas facilities. My prose is the tool for intermediating between those two halves of myself.

Noir Nation: What do you have in store next for the fans of Nick Arvin?

Nick Arvin: I have a group of new stories that I’m excited about, and I’m just starting to try to figure out how to get them into the world, both as stories and as a book. The working title is “An Index of Human Properties.”

And I’m working with an idea for a novel that would be very paranoiac and involves a kind of Sci-Fi. It’s only at the flirting stage right now between me and this thing, but we’re looking deeply into each other’s eyes and touching each other on the arm. I think it might get serious.

Noir Nation editors at eBook panel – video available

L-R: Eddie Vega, Cort McMeel, Norb Vonnegut, Evan Ratliff, Sree Sreenivasan, Andrew McGowan

An exciting presentation at the National Arts Club on the future of eBooks. Sponsored by the club’s Literary Committee and Photography Committee, the Online News Organization, and the Yeats Society of New York, the panel included Cort McMeel (of Noir Nation and Bare Knuckles Press), thriller author Norb Vonnegut, Evan Ratliff (of The Atavist) and Sree Sreenivasin, student dean of the Columbia J-school. Eddie Vega moderated. Mo Krachmal served as video producer. To see portions of the video, click on the image above or click here.

Noir Nation’s Cort McMeel to serve on eBook Panel

Noir Nation founding editor Cort McMeel will serve on a panel exploring the future of eBooks. It will be an   exciting  look   at   how   story   tellers, fiction and nonfiction, are using new media technology to keep readers   informed  and entertained. Come learn about the economic prospects of eBooks, how they are created, their comparative advantages to print books, and their connection to online social media.

The panel will feature new media journalists Sree Sreenivasan (Columbia Graduate School of  Journalism,  DNAinfo,  WABC-TV) and Evan Ratliff (The Atavist, The  New  Yorker, National   Geographic).   They will  be  joined by financial novelist Norb  Vonnegut (St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunn  and  St. Martins/Minotaur Press).

The panel is being sponsored by the National Arts Club, The Online News Association, and the WB Yeats Society of New York. The panel will  be moderated by writer & journalist Eddie Vega.

Date: March 16, 2012 at 8 p.m.

Where: Grand Gallery, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York, NY 10003

Noir Nation mourns Southern noir writer William Gay

From The New York Times

William Gay, a self-taught novelist from rural Tennessee who emerged from obscurity in his late 50s with critically praised books in the Southern Gothic style, died last Thursday at his home, a log cabin in Hohenwald, southwest of Nashville. He was 70. The cause was presumed to be a heart attack, said Sonny Brewer, a friend and editor in chief at Mr. Gay’s most recent publisher, MacAdam/Cage.

The son of a sharecropper who spent much of his working life in blue-collar jobs, Mr. Gay wrote about rustic Tennessee with an inside observer’s eye for local color and a hyperbolist’s delight in regional idiosyncrasies. Like William Faulkner, who focused much of his oeuvre in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi, Mr. Gay created a hometown for his fiercely eccentric, furiously motivated or morally challenged characters — Ackerman’s Field, Tenn. And like his acknowledged influences, Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy, he wrote stories and novels rife with tortuous family drama, events bordering on the supernatural and violence that could erupt with a flash.


Paul D. Brazill interviews Noir Nation editor Eddie Vega


Famed crime writer Paul D. Brazill interviews Noir Nation editor Eddie Vega. How is David Goodis connected to Yeats, Lorca, Allen Ginsberg and Cort McMeel? Find out in this tell-all interview.