New “San Diego Noir” Book Disses Ocean Beach and Ignores Earlier “Noir”

by on May 16, 2011 · 10 comments

in Culture, Media, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego

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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kelly Mayhew May 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm

As the managing editor of City Works Press, thank you Mr. Gormlie for pointing SUNSHINE/NOIR’s exclusion out. That article in the U-T left out so much: Oakley Hall’s body of noir work set in San Diego and Jim Thompson’s NOW AND ON EARTH spring to mind immediately. Thus San Diego Noir has been published decades before this “first.”


avatar Frank Gormlie May 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Kelly, thanks so much for this “update” on San Diego’s noirs. (And puleese – it’s “Frank”). Perhaps … you could take this comment and write a longer piece on our hidden “noirs” for us.


avatar Abby May 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Good, let the tourists go to Mission Beach instead.


Yes, it’s true! Ocean Beach sucks and is phoney. You shouldn’t come here. Go to one of the other cooler beaches and stay away from OB and it’s fake beach town vibe.

Really, go somewhere else.


avatar Frank Gormlie May 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

We have heard from one of the writers in San Diego Noir (she loves OB), and she’s trying to get us a copy of the book, for a FULL review.


avatar John May 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm

When I think of the dark side of OB I don’t think of a 2 dollar vinyl sticker. I think of the stabbings, gun point robberies, bodies on the beach, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, ect…


avatar joe September 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

OB is completely over rated. It is a town full of fleas, trashy people which half are prob milking the government and the most feces filled streets. Ill take Mb pb or hell even ib over on any day.


avatar Bill Ray September 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

You should stay in LaJolla, Joe. Our shit stinks down in these parts.


avatar mr.rick September 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Joe, I guess you could just stay on them other beaches.


avatar Kenloc September 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Dear Joe The Plumber,
Do we dare ask what flealess,crimefree part of town you live in where noone is milking the government and every dog owner picks up after their dog and washes the street afterward? We realize the only reason you probably visit OB is to get your drugs and go back to LJ.I love my trashy neighbors,because they keep all of the Joe The Plumbers inland or on other beaches.Go to IB Joe,that is the best idea I’ve heard from a Joe the Plumber in a long time.


avatar obDADA September 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

RIGHTs oN, Abby!

“Good, let the tourists go to Mission Beach instead.


Yes, it’s true! Ocean Beach sucks and is phoney. You shouldn’t come here. Go to one of the other cooler beaches and stay away from OB and it’s fake beach town vibe.

Really, go somewhere else.”


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