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Akashic Books, 14 January 2016. ISBN: 978-1-61775-295-1
This volume of 14 short
stories is one of a series of noir collections published by the U.S.
Publisher Akashic Books, the majority of which are set in various U.S. cities
although there are volumes set in, for instance, Delhi, Tel Aviv and Moscow as
well as Paris. In the introduction to the stories the editor describes
Marseille as a 'world city, a crossroads for the people of Europe and the
Mediterranean' although now struggling to come to terms with post-industrial
decline from its once proud position as 'the queen of the Mediterranean,
tirelessly drawing its power from the vast French colonial empire.' The city
has always been known for its criminality, including such films as The
French Connection, and the connection between organised crime and politics
dating back to the German occupation of the city in World War II. Now, however,
the violence is often more random and disorganised, stemming from the drugs
trade and the killings it gives rise to, and this is reflected in a number of
the stories. But not all of them; one, for instance, arises from the sheer
annoyance caused to a mild-mannered teacher by the constant playing by his
neighbours of loud music, while another is a tale of revenge against a
faithless lover. The stories are set in different areas of the city, indicating
the individual character of each neighbourhood while at the same time also
reflecting the city's homogeneity while also giving a voice to the many ethnic
groups which make up the city's population from diverse parts of the world even
so far as the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, once a French colony but now
independent. In that way, as the editor points out in the introduction, it
resembles London although, being noir, there is not much room for humour
– no equivalent of the 'lovable Cockney geezer' such as Arthur Daley from the
80s TV series Minder or Charles Dickens's child criminal, the Artful
Dodger. But that isn't what noir fiction is about.
The writers, not all of whom are crime writers, are as
follows: Christian Garcin, Francois Thomazeau, Patrick Coulomb, Rene Fregni,
Marie Neuser, Emmanuel Loi, Rebecca Lighieri, Francois Beaune, Philippe
Carrese, Pia Petersen, Serge Sciotto, Minna Sif, Salim Hatubou and the editor.
The translation is excellent.
Cédric Fabre was
born in 1968 in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and moved to France at age fourteen. A
freelance journalist who runs writing workshops, Fabre’s novels flirt with
alternate history (La commune des
minots), fantasy, and noir (Marseille’s burning). He lives and works in Marseille.
Radmila Maywas born in the US but has lived in the UK ever since
apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not
go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law
publishers and has been working for them off and on ever since. For the last
few years she was one of three editors working on a new edition of a
practitioners' text book on Criminal Evidence by her late husband; the book has
now been published thus giving her time to concentrate on her own writing. She
also has an interest in archaeology in which subject she has a Diploma.