Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Brit Noir by Barry Forshaw

Brit Noir is another contribution by Barry Forshaw to the Pocket Essentials imprint of Oldcastle Books; his previous titles in the series are Nordic Noir and Euro Noir. The sub-title is "The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of the British Isles". All this in just over 200 pages! Naturally, it's a selective overview, but I've found it not only readable but also informative. Barry Forshaw has already directed me to one or two books and authors I knew very little or nothing about, and that is always one of the great benefits, in my opinion, of a decent book about the genre, whatever angle the author takes.

Barry's angle is wider than the word "Noir" might imply; I'm one of the many authors featured, yet my novels (unlike some of my darker short stories) don't fall within a conventional view of noir fiction. The same is true of Kate Ellis' work and that of many other authors included - such as, to take Barry's own example, Alexander McCall Smith. So just because you're not a noir fan, don't disregard this very wide-ranging guide.

Barry explains his approach more fully in a useful introduction. He also makes the point that, although authors are listed by geographical location, the best way to find them is by looking at the index. I didn't expect to find Kate n the North East section, to be honest, but the explanation derives from the fictionalised York in which her Joe Plantagenet books are set. So the index is the place to go when trying to see if your favourite author is featured.

There are, at least, three main ways in which reviewers tend to criticise books about the genre. The first is to argue about the author's opinions. The second is to complain about omissions, and the third is to quibble about errors. (A cynic might add that a fourth method is to ignore the book and simply promote the reviewer's own opinions!) All of us who write about the genre understand that none of our books is ever definitive, and Barry would be the first to acknowledge that this is true of Brit Noir. But as I say, despite the fact that I've soaked myself in fictional crime over the years, he's highlighted plenty that was unfamiliar to me, above all, various interesting films, some of which I intend to check out as soon as I can. And that makes me very glad indeed to have a copy of this short and snappy book on my shelves.

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