Book Notes: Miami Noir

After reading Havana Noir, I just had to check out the Miami version. Besides, Miami is one of those cities which loom large in my imagination. You would think that after all the time I have spent there, it wouldn’t. But no matter how many luxury condos they build, and how they try to tame it, there is something beautiful and bawdy and real about the city. This quality is admirably captured by Les Standiford’s selections.
The stories here are not as literary as the ones in Havana Noir, but they are also not as bleak. Obviously, there is sex, murder, and betrayal, but in much smaller and less graphic quantities- only two cases of incest that I can remember. The protagonists are shady characters and PI’s of sorts who function in a murky world of moral relativism. Yet it is a world where morality is trampled, as opposed to one without moral boundaries. The bad guys, for the most part, get their due.

Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because some of my favorite Miami mystery writers are among the authors: James W. Hall, Barbara Parker, and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, who has the distinction of having stories in both anthologies. I particularly enjoyed her story which is one of the only ones with a significant Cuban character. Surprisingly enough, few Cubans figure in these tales. Set in the fringes of the city and of society, the tales portray the drop outs, the retirees, people with a past and no future. One exception is the last and most powerful story in the anthology, “The Swimmers,” which centers on the experiences of four Haitians trying to make it into the United States in a smuggler’s boat.
I have given a lot of thought to the differences between Miami and Havana Noir, and perhaps I am wrong or I’m just discovering the Mediterranean, but I think practitioners of the Noir genre in Cuba express the anger bred by their environment in disaffection, which if I can remember that far back is a technique of satire in which the author seeks to repel the reader. In any case, both are worthy of a read.