Book Review: Euro Noir by Barry Forshaw

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One of the UK’s foremost experts on crime fiction, Barry Forshaw’s knowledge of the genre is without equal. In addition to editing Crime Time and Nordic Noir magazines, he is the author of several notable books including Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction and British Crime Film. Regularly called upon to appear in documentaries, it was whilst working on Italian Noir for BBC Four he was struck with inspiration and came up with the idea for what eventually became Euro Noir.

A companion to last year’s Nordic Noir (also published by Pocket Essentials), this latest volume has a far broader remit. Endeavouring to survey as many contemporary authors working in the field across the continent as possible, Barry Forshaw proves that the distinction between fan and media professional is an arbitrary one. Written with an infectious enthusiasm and drawing from many years devouring the cream of what our cousins from the mainland have to offer, the author presents a near definitive guide to Europe’s take on the genre.

Long term readers of Barry Forshaw’s work will know that his hallmark is the ability to appeal to newcomers seeking a thorough overview before making their own tentative steps into the nearest book shop, public library, or DVD store and yet still offering something that will force long term enthusiasts to rethink any assumptions they may have about an author, book, film, or movement. Offering a refreshing new take on the genre and its attendant criticism, the author’s trademark thorough research is taken into an entirely different realm by the addition of interview extracts with authors, translators and editors. Personal anecdotes of meeting writers and publishing staff at festivals or institutes lift this text so that it never becomes a dry analysis. An exuberant critical celebration, subtitled The Pocket Essential Guide to European Crime Fiction, Film &TV the book covers an immense number of titles and is written so that even those who have seen a specific film or read a particular book several times will want to go back and experience the story all over again to see how whatever nugget of information the author has offered changes the viewing or reading dynamic. A key plot or character moment may be totally transformed after reading what the writer wanted to convey or perhaps a cultural cue explained by Barry Forshaw might add layers of rich texture to a scene.

A justly deserved reputation for cogent arguments and an inclusive approach to the material being scrutinized was validated when the book was selected as a university set text whilst still in the proof stages. An essential guide not only to crime fiction but also a celebration of European popular culture. The overview has a slight bias towards the west not out of any personal preference but because of the availability of translated editions. Euro Noir is encyclopedic is scope and is written to be accessible, titles cited can be ordered from any major retailer.

Traversing the continent’s rich contribution to the genre of crime fiction Barry Forshaw doesn’t discriminate, authors less known to UK readers and more famous names are given an equal amount of coverage and analysis. From Georges Simenon through to Jakob Arjouni and Marek Krajewski, the figures vital to the foundation and expansion of European noir are profiled and their most representative works given the accord they deserve.

Alongside the consideration of the literary scene is a fully comprehensive overview of essential films and TV series that includes modern cult classics Braquo, Mesrine, Salamander, and Spiral but also covers older works including Les diaboliques, and Lucky Luciano.

Crime fiction is an ever expanding genre. In the year since Nordic Noir was published fans have been treated to a number of new authors along with a succession of high quality series brought to us courtesy of BBC 4, More 4, and Arrow Video. The author revisits Scandinavia’s contribution in a chapter that brings readers bang-up-to-date with what is happening in the Nordic territories.

Entertaining, illuminating, and indispensable. This is the ultimate road map for anybody interested in European crime books, film, and TV.

Euro Noir is available from Amazon and all other booksellers

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Euro-Noir-Essential-European-Essentials/dp/1843442450/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401557269&sr=8-1&keywords=barry+forshaw+euro+noir

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1 thought on “Book Review: Euro Noir by Barry Forshaw”

  1. If Euro Noir lives up to the same high standards as Nordic Noir then we’re in for a treat. But what I especially like about this review is that it takes what is almost a manifesto for fan culture (that it should be enthusiastic, inclusive, personal and celebratory – while keeping critical faculties carefully tuned – and so on) and then applies it to Barry Forshaw’s work. I am not sure whether the exuberance of the noir fandom arises from these books, or indeed whether it is the other way around, or just a very happy coincidence, but with a steady stream of new work now arriving (or indeed generating) in the UK, the future for us fans clearly continues to be noir.

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