I like exploring blogs and publications that take me to books that are completely new to me. It's a bit rare and as I've said before can be a little like panning for gold.
One such occurrence happened to me yesterday. I came across a book being mentioned. After tracking down more info about it I feel like I HAVE to read Young Blood by African novelist Sifiso Mzobe.
Here's a quick synopsis:
“Sipho lives in Umlazi, Durban - he is seventeen, has dropped out of school and helps out at his father's mechanic shop. But odd jobs do not provide the lifestyle his friend Musa has, with his BMW and designer clothes. Soon Sipho's love for fast cars and money leads him into a life of crime that brings him close to drugs, death and prison time."
But here's the thing, the book isn't readily available. It's an African book that, as far as I know, hasn't found a US publisher yet. It looks like it is available on the Nook, but I don't have a Nook. (But I can get a Nook app for my phone....)
Recently I read about a book, first published in Japan in 1935, called Dogra Magra that had me excited too. As far as I can tell it is not available in English but there was a French version that came out a few years ago. The idea that a book with what sounds like noir qualities was released in Japan and in 1935 is interesting.
"Describing the premise for Dogra Magra will illustrate the problems reviewers have had in attempting to distill its essence in a few pithy comments. Ichiro, the protagonist, wakes up one day suffering from amnesia. He is in a psychiatric ward. He comes to learn, through the eponymous "Dogra Magra," that he has attempted to kill his fiancée. Yet there is much more to this than just a psychological portrait of what leads one to kill what one loves. Turns out that much of the writing in the middle section is in the form of psychiatric reports written by two doctors who may or may not be characters in Ichiro's narrative. Furthermore, the narrative fractures into an exploration of Buddhist concepts surrounding karma, particularly how it applies to Japanese culture in the period immediately following World War I, two generations removed from the beginning of the Meiji Restoration and Japan's rapid industrialization. And if this does not sound complicated enough, Ichiro and a female character may or may not be reincarnated souls that are experiencing the memories and mental anguish of their ancestors."
"It is in the latter half of Dogra Magra where this sense of surrealness occurs most often. Before this midpoint, the story does resemble in form and structure a detective novel, albeit one that is odd in that the protagonist seems to be either truly amnesiac or insane. Once the reader manages to process the contents of the psychiatric reports, one begins to question as to whether or not everything is as it seems. Yumeno's digressions into the ancestral memories, into the repetitive nature of certain memorable (and perhaps infamous) actions, causes the narrative to careen sharply away from earlier reader expectations and toward something that is inexplicable for the reader. Furthermore, there are hints that even those reporting on Ichiro may not be what they seem. This results in a conclusion that loops back, creating what appears to be an infinite loop that alters slightly at its end what it had begun narrating."
I remember a few years ago hearing about the Australian book Graphic by Shane Briant but had been unwilling to pay the shipping costs to have it sent to the states. [Graphic was published by Marburg Press in January 2012.]
Speaking of Australian books Andrew Nette has written some blog posts about Australian pulp fiction books that sound great too.
So yesterday on Twitter I asked if there were other books that people wanted to read but didn't have access to. I find it a fascinating subject, especially in this internet age. It requires a reader to be open to new suggestions and in many cases go actively hunting for books.
Peter Rozovsky from Detectives Beyond Borders responded "I'd like to read more Harri Nykänen and Jean-Patrick Manchette than is currently available in English."
And he's right because Manchette is a great example. Readers in the U.S. are told that Manchette is a noir god and yet as much as 70% of his work remains untranslated.
I think the mystery/crime genre has a good track record of bringing translated and international fiction to Anglophone/Western audiences. I hope that some enterprising publisher will put in the work looking at these markets and make some of this fiction more readily available.
So what book would you like to read but can't?
The latest Snubnose Press book is out. Nothing Matters is a 20k word noir poem by Steve Finbow (a prose/novella version is included as well so readers can chose which they prefer to read).
Currently reading: Still picking my way through a few different titles and I've mainly been reading submissions for Snubnose.
Currently Listening: Go To Blazes was one of my favorite bands in the 90's. Originally from DC before relocating to Philly. I loved these guys but they never seemed to make it nationally. Accordingly their music had been hard to find. Someone uploaded a bunch of their songs to Youtube. Here's their ode to Sam Peckinpah.