For Chanuka, books that bind us

Jewish Noir

By Jonathan Kirsch
Jewish Journal
November 13th, 2015

“The books and movies that we call “noir” were often created by Jews but seldom featured Jewish characters or settings, and prize-winning mystery writer Kenneth Wishnia insists there is something deeply Jewish about the fatalism that is a hallmark of the genre. “In Judaism, you can follow the right path and still get screwed,” he explains in “Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds” (PM Press). “That’s noir.” There are rarities and delights throughout Wishnia’s collection, ranging from a 1912 story that first appeared in Yiddish in the pages of the Forverts, to a resurrected little masterpiece by the immortal Harlan Ellison, “Final Shtick.” One contributor, Adam Fisher, is a rabbi, although his story, “Her Daughter’s Bat Mitzvah,” contains some ribaldries that have never been heard coming from a pulpit. Heywood Gould’s “Everything Is Bashert” conflates a hard-boiled tale of murder and mayhem with pious (and ironic) quotations from the Shulchan Arukh. And a story by film historian Eddie Muller, the celebrated “Czar of Noir,” is ornamented with an irresistible opening line: “The mishegas really started with the cat, but my version begins with Daphne’s boobs.”

Back to Kenneth Wishnia’s Author Page