Lagos Noir | edited by Chris Abani
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction, Mystery, Noir
Pages: 224, paperback
Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
Blurb: An anthology of noir stories set in the tumultuous metropolis, Lagos. Edited by Chris Abani, this collection brings together brand new stories from some of Nigeria’s best-loved writers. From the introduction by Chris Abani: The thirteen stories that comprise this volume stretch the boundaries of “noir” fiction, but each one of them fully captures the essence of noir, the unsettling darkness that continues to lurk in the city’s streets, alleys, and waterways…Together, these stories create an unchartered path through the center of Lagos and out to its peripheries, revealing so much more truth at the heart of this tremendous city than any guidebook, TV show, film, or book you are likely to find.
I rated this 3 out of 5 stars.
Hmmm… Where do I even begin with this book? It was one of my most anticipated books of the year so I’m a little annoyed that it didn’t blow my brains out. I like Noir fiction, I mean, that’s my shit but this was more of an exploration of the city of Lagos.
Lagos Noir is a collection of 13 short stories about different places in Lagos that deal with the daily struggles in life. Each story has just enough to hold your interest. The book is divided into three parts: Cops and Robbers, In A Family Way, and Arrivals and Departures.
It’s a quick read and enjoyable. Can’t even fault that. The stories in Lagos Noir might deal with the dark side of the city, but even stories about crooked policemen or suspicious landlords can’t disguise how in love the writers are with the city – and it’s likely that many readers soon will be, too. Bravo, guys!
My favorite stories were Nnedi Okorafor’s “Showlogo,” in which a man of near-mythic standing finds an unusual way out of the city when he needs to hide from the police; “The Swimming Pool,” by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, about tensions within a prominent local family; “Choir Boy,” by ‘Pemi Aguda, which tells the story and aftermath of a bus hijacking, was my most memorable story in this book. I loved it so much! But even though these stories stood out to me the most, I genuinely enjoyed all the contributions to the collection.
The “Akashic Noir” series spans dozens of books across numerous cities around the world, each of them united in telling noir stories in disparate locales. Each city informs and colours the criminal activities contained within, allowing new voices and new experiences to unfold in a familiar format. Every book feels, at once, unique and yet representative of a certain style.
Lagos Noir breaks with this tradition somewhat, as fewer than half of the stories really fit the noir aesthetic that has defined the series for so long. Instead, Lagos Noir abandons the concept in order to remain true to the flip side of the Akashic Noir coin: representing the subject city in a realistic, meaningful, honest fashion.
And it doesn’t hurt the collection to step back from the noir trappings a bit. There is still greed, innocence, ambition, and all the trappings that make crime stories so engaging.
The Lagos angle is as educating and eye-opening as it is engaging, quickly encouraging you to side with any protagonist, no matter how shady, because they’re still better than the corruption all around them. Well, most of the time.