Noir in French means black. Noir is a movement that started in movies when the darker sides of human psyche was explored. The movement was in its prime in early 40's and characterized by melancholic characters succumbing to crime and violence in urban settings. Later versions of Noir movies came to be known as neo noir. Noir can take up any genre of movie making- crime, mystery, suspense, horror, sci-fi and even comedy with dark undertones. (One fine example of neo-noir that I watched is Billy bob Thornton movie The Man Who Wasn't There.) Later, noir became a genre in fiction and in comics.
Delhi Noir is an anthology of short stories with noirish characters featuring Delhi as the backdrop and edited by Hirsh Sawhney. It is part of a Noir series of books published by Akashic Books with other titles including Seattle Noir, Istanbul Noir, Chicago Noir etc. The book contain 14 stories written by established and not- so- established writers, taking place in various places in and around the capital city. The book will be more appealing to those who are familiar with the city because each story happens in a well known area. The same time it may be appalling to the same people because it does not present a rosy picture of the capital. Those who felt Slumdog Millionaire was selling Mumbai's poverty may feel that Delhi Noir does that by portraying sleaze, crime and violence. Personally I feel a little introspection will do no harm. And if the shock provided by Delhi Noir helps in achieving it, then it serves the purpose. Another factor to keep in mind is that these stories are not trying to give a message, or trying to give a remedy to any social evil. They are just exploring the evil minds creating havoc in situations that we face in our every day life.
As to the literary value of the stories, I would just tell that all fourteen of them are well readable and some of them, if not all, are spell binding. Most of them has a cheesy, on the face and crude approach of story telling characteristic to the genre. Violence, sleaze and gore are added in generous doses and at the same time at least some stories makes an effort to pry into the minds of protagonists, though it is not a necessity. Shock value, as I had mentioned before, plays a great role in the appeal of crime noirs, and most of the stories in this collection succeeds in catering to this need. Violence against women is an oft repeated theme in this collection. But I feel the title of Delhi as the rape capital fairly justifies it.
This one is a good read for people who are fans of the genre and for Delhiites who would like to rediscover the darker sides of the city with which they are familiar.If you are put off by lack of any poetic justice in plot, or by excess of gore, crime, violence, sex and absence of a moral sense, better keep off.