An edited version of this review first appeared in The Star on 8th July, 2014
KL NOIR BLUE: NO ARRESTS FOR THE WICKED
Editor: Ee Leen Lee
Publisher: FIXI NOVO, 291 words
FIXI NOVO’sKL NOIR series continues with Blue, a collection that focuses on the shady world of crime.
No Arrests for the Wicked is the book’s cheesy subtitle, but this doesn’t mean that bad deeds go unpunished. Indeed, there are no happy endings for anyone, but the price of crime is never anything as conventional as the rope or 60 years with no hope for parole. Retribution is invariably more creative, poetic even, and much more gruesome than one would suffer if left in the hands of the legal system, as grubby as their paws might be. Hey, it’s noir so there can be no mercy, no silver lining.
The sticky ends suffered by the characters are predictable, but the stories are told with such relish that I didn’t find it terribly hardto get into the spirit of things and just revel in the blood, gore and violence.
The collection could, however, have benefited from more meticulous editing. Clunky sentences, gratuitous metaphors and forced similes, bad grammar – they all combine to grate on the nerves, and give the book an unfortunately amateurish feel. I do think this is a common failing in local publishing – not much time or money is allowed for thorough editing, and this results in stories never being quite as good as they could be, and instead just being “not bad … for a Malaysian book”. Of course, the quality of writing has often nothing to do with how well a book sells and it worries me when a good-looking book (Fixi’s titles are known for their cool covers) flies off the shelves as this seems to justify the lack of effort spent on its contents.
I believe the plan is for FIXI NOVO’s list to enjoy just a single print run. Pulp fiction is fast food in text form, meant to be consumed quickly and then forgotten. So, maybe, we’re supposed to not sweat the messy prose. Maybe we’re supposed to just chill and savour the sin.
OK done, but that means a book review would be rather pointless. If we’re not going to discuss quality then should we just present a list of facts and impressions: Here are 15 stories, “about law and disorder”. The authors include RozlanMohd Noor, Damyanti Ghosh and ZedeckSiew. The characters run the gamut of unholy possibilities: dismembered spirits; corrupt cops; grieving parents driven to madness; retired gangsters; disillusioned writers. As this is a Malaysian collection, the supernatural features prominently. Zed Adam’s Mirage is the most interesting and original of the tales, with the occult blending seamlessly with technology to disturbing and creepy effect. Marco Ferrarese’sBathroom Wall reinforces my suspicion (begun when I read Nazi Goreng) that he should really be writing porn. And Hearts in the City by ZedeckSiew is a slick, sexy, extremely enjoyable fast-paced romp that should be made into a film (take note, Benji Lim).
To tell you the truth, I can’t recall much about the rest of the book, apart from the stories being enjoyable, but needing more attention from the collection’s editor. I guess this means Blue has succeeded as trash fiction: Here today, gone the next second. Bring on KL Noir: Yellow, FIXI NOVO. I can’t wait to be fleetingly entertained, all over again.
N.B. In my review, published in The Star on 8th July, 2014, I stated that there would only be single print runs of Fixi Novo titles. This was a mistake on my part. Amir Muhammad had informed me some months earlier that the plan was for up to three editions of the imprint’s titles before they would transition into e-format.