Van­cou­ver Noir takes lit­er­ary look at dark side of our city

Vancouver Sun - - YOU - DANA GEE

Van­cou­ver’s rep­u­ta­tion is that of out­door fun, ath­leisure wear cloth­ing and craft beer. But fooled by all the S’well wa­ter bot­tles there’s a much darker side to the city, a side that is chron­i­cled in the new short-story an­thol­ogy Van­cou­ver Noir. The lat­est ad­di­tion to the Akashic Books sta­ble of Noir Se­ries ti­tles Van­cou­ver Noir was edited by Sam Wiebe. We caught up with Wiebe, who also con­trib­utes a story to the book, and asked him a few ques­tions.

Q You are a crime writer by trade, so I was won­der­ing look­ing back are there books that ter­ri­fied you?

A Red Dragon by Thomas Har­ris and Zom­bie by Joyce Carol Oates. Both make you iden­tify with very un­pleas­ant peo­ple.

Q What must a story be to be clas­si­fied noir? What are the key el­e­ments?

A: Den­nis Le­hane called noir “work­ing class tragedy,” and I think there’s some truth to that. It’s about bad things hap­pen­ing to peo­ple a lot like us.

Q: What are the clichés that should be avoided when writ­ing th­ese types of sto­ries?

A: It’s only a cliché if you do it poorly. A femme fa­tale in 2018 with a predilec­tion for shoul­der pads and vene­tian blinds would be silly. But a char­ac­ter well­versed in sex­ual psy­chol­ogy? End­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing.

Q Van­cou­ver is not typ­i­cally con­sid­ered a noir type place, but that as­sump­tion is very wrong, right?

A Dead wrong. Noir is about the dark lurk­ing be­neath the tourist-friendly image — and Van­cou­ver ex­cels at both.

Q What was it that got you think­ing about the city’s dark side?

A It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by. My dad took me to the Po­lice Mu­seum when I was very young, and it def­i­nitely left an im­pres­sion.

Q: Have you ever felt uneasy walk­ing around a part of Van­cou­ver at night?

A: Sure. I’ve seen fights, over­doses, po­lice raids. There are def­i­nitely places where des­per­a­tion and rage are more eas­ily felt.

Q: How did you de­cide on the au­thors for the book?

A: I wanted a bal­ance of genre and lit­er­ary writ­ers, with dif­fer­ent back­grounds and per­spec­tives. Van­cou­ver is a com­plex city, and any an­thol­ogy that doesn’t at­tempt to rep­re­sent that would be re­miss. The com­mon point is that they can all write re­ally well.

Q: Did th­ese sto­ries ex­ist be­fore the book? Or did you com­mis­sion writ­ers. If you com­mis­sioned sto­ries what was the di­rec­tion you gave the writ­ers?

A I com­mis­sioned all the sto­ries in the book. I wanted the au­thors to in­ter­pret noir for them­selves. Writ­ers as good as Nathan Ri­p­ley, Sheena Ka­mal, Car­leigh Baker and Ti­mothy Tay­lor don’t need a whole lot of di­rec­tion.

Q The fans for crime writ­ing are a rav­en­ous bunch. What is it about this genre that draws so many ded­i­cated fans in?

A No genre is more de­voted to telling sto­ries about Real Life and Right Now than crime fic­tion. The sto­ries are en­ter­tain­ing in them­selves, but they’re also about things that mat­ter — hous­ing, ad­dic­tion, men­tal ill­ness, poverty, and gen­dered vi­o­lence, to name a few.

Q You have a story in the book called Won­der­ful Life. It’s set near Com­mer­cial Drive. What is it about that area that in­spired you to write the story?

A The Drive was tra­di­tion­ally the city’s im­mi­grant, work­ing­class, rough­neck neigh­bour­hood. Won­der­ful Life is about the ways that older, rougher ver­sion of the Drive im­poses it­self on the present day. I have to credit Aaron Chap­man’s fan­tas­tic Last Gang in Town for in­spir­ing Won­der­ful Life.


Ed­i­tor and author Sam Wiebe com­mis­sioned all the sto­ries in Van­cou­ver Noir.

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