Armchair Travel: : picks from our December newsletter

Some picks from our December Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover of Calcutta: Two Years in the CityCover of All Good ThingsCover of Slow Train to SwitzerlandCover of The Last Great ApeCover of On The Trail of Genghis KhanCover of The MIddle Kingdom RideCover of The DanubeCover of Little PrincesCover of Walk in Their Shoes

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Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback!

The joy of noir

Cover of The spies of WarsawI’m  happy. This week the television adaptation of The spies of Warsaw started screening. I’m a long time fan of the author  Alan Furst who has written a number of fascinating novels set in pre-WWII and wartime Europe featuring spies and resistants. His heroes are often sophisticated denizens of major capitals like Paris, Warsaw and Vienna and move easily between high and low life. It’s all very noirish – a phrase much abused I suspect.

I looked up noir in Wikipedia and came up with Film noir:

Film noir (/fɪlm nwɑr/; French pronunciation: ​[film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

Some key words jump out: cynical attitudes, sexual motivations and crime. That pretty much describes a noir novel I think. The world weary hero is sexually sophisticated and operating in a criminal milieu. (Note how writing about noir leads you to throw around those fancy French words).

If reading noirish novels is your thing we have a good list of suggestions called Europe Noir and featuring classics: Le Carre, Philip Kerr, Eric Ambler as well as current writers in that area. Happy noir reading and viewing.