Akashic Books goes tropical with TRINIDAD NOIR, a new collection of noir short stories. Let me rephrase that: This is a collection that in no real way fits the genre of noir; crimes are committed, but more on the reader than the people in these tales. The anthology is comprised of writers I’ve never read before and I was expecting to be exposed to some rising talents, but what I got felt like a creative writing class exercise.
It’s a real shame since the Trinidad setting would make for some great crime writing. Just think of the corrupt tales of the police or a crooked taxi driver who messes with tourists. But this volume — edited by Lisa Allen-Agostini and Jeanne Mason — is more about stories that reinforce stereotypes to the point of overkill.
A perfect example is Robert Antoni’s “How to Make Photocopies in the Trinidad & Tobago National Archives.” Not only is it told through letters to an unseen man named Mr. Robot, but it’s so hard to follow with the dialect forced throughout such correspondence: “so Mr robot i done check tru de car catalogue.” That is a direct quote, and this style goes on through the whole thing.
But this is not the only one that features that type of island speak, which is used so much that most readers will be frustrated. The collection is broken down into two sections, the first being that of country life, with stories like “The Rape” by Kevin Baldeosingh. It tells the story behind its title, but does not go the way you’d think — which is an original idea, but it takes such a meandering pace until the final passage.
Two of the stories deal with a young girl exacting some sort of revenge on people in their lives. There is the expected “drug deal gone wrong” event, this one focusing on pot, while in the “Town” section, we get the already discussed tale of photocopying.
Lawrence Scott’s “Prophet” comes close to actual noir, telling the story of a reporter making an investigation, while also explaining his progress to his boss. Keith Jardim’s “The Jaguar” should be placed with another collection since it’s the best thing this collection has going for it and needs wider exposure. True noir fans should pass on this offering, which is truly a shame since other books in Akashic’s NOIR series are much better. —Bruce Grossman