Rome Noir

Having read a recent collection
of Italian crime fiction, I was more than ready for more of the same. Sadly, ROME NOIR can’t hold a candle to the earlier anthology, mainly for the reason there are so few stories here that are actually crime-related. Edited by Chiara Stangalino and Maxim Jakubowski, the book comes off more like a collection of Italian fiction — some good, some bad.

It’s a total head-scratcher since Jakubowski has such a great eye for crime fiction, but once I read the introduction, I knew that I should have just placed the book down and moved on, since the editors even admit the people they approached had no clue what to do with the setting of Rome.

The stories that are included are fine, but barely have a crime element in them. It will become frustrating for people who pick up this latest in Akashic’s NOIR series expecting the likes of the DUBLIN NOIR or BALTIMORE NOIR entries. The narrator of Tommaso Pincio’s “The Melting Pot” moves into a former hotel and gets mixed up with some Chinese immigrants. He plays cards with his newfound friends, not understanding that he better be able to pay his bills.

Another standout is a cautionary tale to taxi drivers by Diego De Silva, “Don’t Talk to the Passenger,” in which a fare deals with a cabbie’s inane babble until it hits too hard of a nerve, causing the passenger to give the driver his comeuppance. This is one of those stories that barely has a crime bent, but still fits into the book. Enrico Franceschini’s “Roman Holidays” plays a bit like a noir novel of old, with an infatuated traveller sleeping with a married woman. He won’t let anyone ruin the situation, doing that all on his own.

But probably the best story of the whole collection — and really the full-on crime number — is Antonio Pascale’s “For a Few More Gold Tokens.” It tells of two young boys who plan a robbery, and the people they get involved with. There are some unexpected turns along the way, with a payoff worthy of an ALFRED HITCHOCK PRESENTS type of tale.

Akashic Books should focus more on the stories being collected, rather than just deciding upon locations and hoping for the best, especially when you see the upcoming lists of cities for this series. There are still some major cities known for crime literature that have not even been thought of yet (Boston, Philadelphia), for unknown reasons. ROME NOIR is not a total loss, but it’s also not the collection that most would expect. —Bruce Grossman

Buy it at Amazon.

BALTIMORE NOIR edited by Laura Lippman
LAS VEGAS NOIR edited by Jarret Keene and Todd James Pierce
MANHATTAN NOIR 2: THE CLASSICS edited by Lawrence Block
TRINIDAD NOIR edited by Lisa Allen-Agostini and Jeanne Mason

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Comment by Rod
2009-03-30 06:51:51

Akashic Books just told me that BOSTON NOIR is due in November, edited by Dennis Lehane.

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Comment by keith rawson
2009-03-31 08:19:53

Jeez, about time. Hopefully it will be an improvement to last couple anthologies they’ve put out

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