Late last week, the San Diego U-T published an article by reporter John Wilkins describing a “new” book out that he called “the answer” to the question why wasn’t there a noir book about San Diego. The book, “San Diego Noir“, (Akashic Books) edited by bookstore owner Maryelizabeth Hart, purports to describe San Diego’s underbelly – “a place of sometimes shocking crime and corruption.” As part of a “literary genre known as noir – that dark terrain of desire and desperation, of passion and paranoia ….” the anthology has a number of articles by both well-known and unknown writers.
Two of the book’s entries, it is stated in the review (as I have not read the book) appear to diss Ocean Beach. Wilkins’ description goes:
There are stories about bodies buried in backyards, bodies chained to buoy anchors, bodies pushed from high places. Some are set during World War II, and some pivot off recent events, like the controversial “Please Don’t Feed Our Bums” sticker in Ocean Beach. (My emphasis.)
In addition, one excerpt from the entry “Moving Black Objects,” by Cameron Pierce Hughes, states:
“Pacific Beach is losing to gentrification and crime spurred by alcohol, and Ocean Beach tries way too hard to be funky and pretend it’s still 1975. Hanging on to a true beach-town feel amid the commercialism of the age is no easy task for those who live there, but Mission Beach keeps it real.”
That excerpt goes on to describe in glowing terms the “real” community of Mission Beach – totally ignoring that Mission Beach has turned into a vacation-rental, time-share, tourist mecca that has no real community remaining. (Don’t wish to seem like I’m expressing a provincial ‘my beach is better than your beach’ theme here, but go check out Mission if you disagree.)
As we all know, OB’s funk is why people like it – and stay loyal to it for decades – even though there are “dark” sides and moments to the community – the whole bum sticker certainly being one of them.
The other thing about this new book – and Wilkins’ article – is that it is implied that “San Diego Noir” is the first and only book of noir San Diego around. For after reading this article, I immediately thought about a book published in 2005, entitled “Sunshine / Noir – Writing From San Diego and Tijuana“, edited by City College prof (and OB Rag blogger) Jim Miller.
So, I called up reporter Wilkins to see if he had even seen Miller’s anthology. He had as he had run into it doing some earlier research – and despite his immediate defensiveness – he did admit that maybe he should have thrown a sentence in there about it. But the new book is a new book, and there are book signings, etc – that’s why he covered it. “The article speaks for itself,” he concluded.
Sure it does, John, but it leaves the reader ignorant of the earlier work. Part of the point of the entire article is that other cities have noir books but San Diego didn’t – until editor Hart’s version.
Yet, I’m glad that Wilkins and Hart and Miller have done their work – as someone who has written about San Diego’s underbelly for decades – and that there are any libros de noir on our fair, sunshine blasted metropolis. It is always good for us residents to understand that we don’t exactly live in the paradise that the boosters claim exists.