'Toronto Noir' Imagines A Dark New Toronto

Toronto Noir, which launched last night at the Gladstone, is exactly what I've been waiting for. It's a book of short stories set in Toronto, but the stories are plot-based and non-boring, and the Toronto is dark and dangerous -- but familiar too.

These are stories of murder, passion, betrayal, (and a little necrophilia, just for good measure. What up, George Elliott Clarke?) and they're grounded very firmly and specifically in Toronto -- Dundas Square, The Beach, Dufferin Mall, Yorkville, etc.

I remember once Bert Archer, a Toronto journalist writing in uTOpia: Towards A New Toronto, described Toronto as "a city which exists in no one's imagination". To which I would like to say: Bullshit.

We've talked about this before, but locally-set fiction is still like walking a fine line over a deep cavern. Toronto Noir, which was edited by Nathaniel G. Moore and Janine Armin, is like lying down a thick sturdy plank over that cavern.

Published by Akashic Books, based out of New York City, Toronto Noir is actually just the most recent in a now-international series. Beginning three years ago with Brooklyn Noir, the series has expanded to include Miami, Las Vegas, Dublin, and lots more, and now finally it's come north of the border. A lot of major Toronto writers have lent their talents, like George Elliott Clarke, Emily Schultz, and Michael Redhill (who, in an alternate reality, is hopefully my boyfriend.)

Last night's launch, part of This Is Not A Reading Series, featured some of the authors sharing stories of the 'noirest' things that have ever happened to them. The stories, like Sean Dixon's story of chasing down a man stealing bags of meat from a Dominion, and Andrew Pyper's story about shoplifting a copy of the New Yorker, are funny and dark and perfect and true, and exactly how I like to think of Toronto. As Moore and Armin write in the introduction to Toronto Noir, "It is in our emergency rooms and carrying home our groceries that we are Torontonians."

I don't think any of these stories are perfect, but as a whole, they go a long way in creating a Toronto that can exist in fiction and, yes, in the imagination.

Photo: "streetcars in the fog" by synchros, from the blogTO flickr pool.

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