Friday, December 09, 2016

Noir: The Darker Side of Life, and Mysteries

When I was a child, one of my grandmothers regularly sent me milk chocolate squares from Switzerland, and I understood that it was the finest chocolate in the world.

Now we live in an era of chocolate gourmands, and most of the best chocolate seems to be dark -- with various additions that still surprise me.

Mysteries, of course, range widely in "color" (whether that's an emotional term, or a plot description). Many of the cozy mysteries that I've reviewed recently are sweet, to the point of describing a lot of desserts, as well as affection between characters, human or not. Then I appreciate in fresh ways the contrast and bite of the darker mysteries, of which today's Scandinavian police procedurals are among the very darkest. Today's dark Irish and Scottish ("tartan noir") crime novels often come in as close seconds.

Hollywood explored the possibilities of these dark, moody, stormy mysteries very effectively, even decades ago. From the gritty urban mysteries of Raymond Chandler, to the eerie perspectives of Alfred Hitchcock, to the special effects of smoke, fog, and gruesome visual death effects, film noir  -- via the mystery and crime dramas that took root in the 1940s and 1950s -- continues to capture the desolation and danger that translate brilliantly across many kinds of boundaries.

Exploring the website and writings of Eddie Muller, "noirchaeologist," adds valuable background and insight to this darker side of mysteries, and to how authors and filmmakers portray life and death. There are moments when despair and loss serve to highlight how to value the light and hope that other places and plots include -- even if that light is simply the glow of the windows in a diner, seen down a hard road.

The poster shown here is from one of the Noir City festivals that Muller curates and nurtures. Kingdom Books is thrilled (really!) to present this -- as Muller himself signed it. It's available for purchase, and could be exactly the right gift for someone who treasures this side of the mystery world. Drop us an e-mail at KingdomBks at gmail dot com and we'll provide details on price and shipping (and conversation, of course!).

PS:  Looking for mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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