Read Harder wanted me to read a book by an author from Southeast Asia. A little google sleuthing turned up the book Singapore Noir edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a native of Singapore, who in her introduction to the collection lays out the Singapore the world is familiar with as well as the Singapore explored in this work. What better way to complete the task than to read a collection of stories by authors hailing from, or simply familiar with, the area in question? And some are in Singlish (well, partly) which is another boon for me since I like works in dialect.
First, if you like noir, then this book is right up your alley. It’s actually the fortieth or so collection put out by Akashic Books which has apparently, unbeknownst to me, been putting out a series of original noir anthologies since 2004. In case you are wondering the noir anthologies are all geographically organize
d, thus Singapore Noir.
What did I learn about myself as a reader during this adventure? That I will consume noir quickly if given the opportunity, but that I should probably limit myself to one or two stories at a time since the genre has very specific rhythms which get very repetitive, very quickly since in all the works the protagonist is either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Add in the fact that that protagonist is usually self-destructive and is dealing with the legal, political or other system that is corrupt is, leading to lose-lose situation.
Highlights for me:
Last Time by Colin Goh, which follows a lawyer attempting to free the arm candy of a mobster. But is that really what’s happening?
Smile, Singapore by Colin Cheong, we spend the night in an interrogation room with a man who has committed a crime, but feels little remorse for the position he was put in.
Kena Sai by S.J. Rozan follows the life of an expatriate couple from beginning to end.
Honestly, this book is probably a 3.5 overall, since there were one or two I couldn’t get myself to care about enough to finish them, I have rounded down.