To celebrate the release of The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, your humble me hereby presents a series of short, intensely sweet interviews about this already-classic anthology.
What impelled you to assemble this anthology? David Nickle and I had been batting around the idea of doing an anthology together for a few years … all we knew was that we wanted it to be dark and cross-genre and that we wanted it to be a statement about a new attitude in Canadian fiction. We were waiting for the right opportunity … and that turned out to be The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.
Why noir? Three attempts at an answer.
- Because, despite its traditional association with crime fiction, noir can, so to speak, colour any genre – so a perfect umbrella for new cross-genre dark fiction from Canada.
- I’ve been writing some noir, and as much as I can I like to explore any given theme both in my own writing and in anthologies I edit. For me, writing short fiction and editing anthologies are complementary activities, two expressions of the same impulse, each feeding the other.
- I had pitched a noir-related three-book idea to a publisher, who, after some back-and-forth, eventually turned it down. The first book would have been my collection Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes (which then wound up at Infinity Plus), the second would have been New Canadian Noir (which landed at Exile), and the third … well, it’s currently on hold, but I’m still thinking about doing it, but, no, I won’t say what it is yet (it’s not a novel, to immediately squash that easy assumption). I would have liked to do all three with the same press as part of the same publishing strategy, but dreams don’t always work out how one envisages them.
What does “Noir” mean to you? It means Jim Thompson. Anything else is diluted noir.
What do you think the term “Canadian Noir” actually means? It means noir written by a Canadian. I know, language is a tricky thing. [ED. Sarcasm is the lazy man’s lie, Claude.]
How does it differ from the more-accepted “American” version of noir? Canadians and Americans are both more dissimilar than we realize and more alike than we like to admit. (Under the Harper dictatorship, our country has been slipping closer and closer to the least appealing aspects of the USA, while not adopting any of the good parts.) Regardless, we still have fundamental and sometimes hard to articulate differences as to how we relate to certain aspects of our physical and social environments, including cars, guns, freedom, government, community, property, liability, sex, race, and religion — to mention some of the elements that feed most into how noir expresses itself south or north of the border. Some of these differences, I’ve noted, can lead to Americans and Canadians talking at each other rather than to each other, as our superficial similarities can make it easy to overlook that we don’t attach the same significance to half of what we’re talking about — and we’re unlikely to constantly analyze and compare our social semantics every time we have a conversation.
Claude Lalumière is the author of many works of fiction, as well as the editor of more than a dozen anthologies in multiple genres.
What does “noir” mean to you? Noir’s always been something that I’ve understood by the feel of it—the aesthetic, I guess. Of dark streets and rain, hard conversations under streetlamp, that sort of thing. But that is bullshit—window-dressing on a dusty cracked glass looking into a rat-infested warehouse of human degradation. Because of course that is a big part of noir: it is about our failure to live well, or as well as we might—the psychology of crime, the ease of betrayal, and the weaponizing of sex. It is about schemes and not plans.
What makes this “Canadian” noir? Other than the writers. The writers are a big part of it. This is 99 and 3/4 per cent Canadian noir, depending how you measure it. There is also setting: sin, bad judgement and payoffs too-good-to-be-true finds its way to Nunavut, Vancouver, the Maritimes, Toronto… It’s tempting also to say that there is a Canadian aesthetic that runs through the whole book but I’m not going to go there because it is not true. Canada is a diverse place, and we’ve got very diverse interpretations of noir: science fiction, Western, fantasy, horror and out-and-out crime.
Can noir exist in Canada anyway? Considering all the snow around here, shouldn’t it be film blanc? And if it’s in slushy Toronto in a typical February, it would be film gris (Although Wikipedia tells me that means something else). In Winnipeg in the summer, film moustique. At Niagara Falls, film humide.
What surprised you the most in the anthology? I think the aforementioned diversity. We really got a broad range of stories — much broader than I’d thought — and a lot of them had fantastic elements. It really hammered home the idea to me that noir as a ‘genre’ is perhaps the most mutable of them all. That really, it is an aesthetic.
David Nickle is an award-winning author of several novels and collections, the most recent of which is Knife Fight and Other Struggles.
Describe your story for the twitter: A missing girl. A world-weary detective. Citizens who refuse the peace of the graveyard. The moots are out tonight. Welcome to Greytown.
Now as an episode of your favourite television series: Doctor Who. The 12th Doctor discovers a way to break through the time/space barrier that traps Amy and Rory in early 20th-century New York. There, he, the Ponds, and Clara discover a sudden rise in the number of missing persons, other people refusing to die (a callback to Torchwood‘s “Miracle Day”?), and a conspiracy that threatens humanity. Cybermen? Daleks? Is Captain Jack coming back? Damn, I gotta write this! Steven Moffat, call me! EXTERMINATE!
What does “noir” mean to you? “He’s dead now, except for he’s breathing.” “The old man’s still an artist with a Thompson.” “Shake your business up and pour it. I don’t have all day.” “I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.” “I’ve got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you.” “Faith doesn’t move mountains. It just obscures the view.” “How do you shoot the devil in the back?” “Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch.” “What kind of killer do you think stops to save a dying fish?” “There are things that have to be forgotten if you want to go on living.”
Tell us anything you want about your story. I listened to a lot of film noir movie music while I wrote it. Plus Charlie Haden’s astonishing albums Always Say Goodbye and Haunted Heart, two of the finest scores for movies that have never existed.
Corey Redekop is an authorganism, scribblereaucrat, and keeper of the blog.
The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir — available now at all fine bookstores, and probably a few of the less-reputable ones. Also available via the Internet, the least-reputable, most stocked, and most poorly organized bookstore of all time.