"THE PERFECT FORM OF NOIR": AN INTERVIEW WITH BLACK IS THE NIGHT EDITOR MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI
Maxim Jakubowski has contributed to fiction as much as an editor of anthologies as well as an author. I discovered many of my favorite crime fiction writers through his collections. Im Black Is The Night, I discovered more as well as found a new appreciation for Cornell Woolrich, the noir thriller writer the collection pays tribute to. Mr. Jakuboswki was kind enough to discuss the project and Woolrich with The Hard Word.
The Hard Word: How did Black Is The Night come about?
Maxim Jakubowski: Cornell Woolrich has long been one of my favourite crime authors. There is an obsessive element to his books and stories, alongside the themes he keeps on returning to, that have always connected deeply with me. To some extent, he has also been an influence on my own fiction, even in other genres. In addition, when I worked in book publishing I republished four of his novels in the late 1980s, and later a collection of his stories. I am also a major film fan and his influence on so many filmmakers has been immense. So when the idea of putting together an anthology of new stories inspired by or in homage to him sparked, I knew instantly it was such an obvious idea. I knew of so many authors across popular fiction genres who shared my passion and contacted all of them; then others heard of the project and volunteered to contribute and I had an embarrassment of superlative material to choose from.
H.W.: The stories are all very different, but I can connect them all to Woolrich's work. What were the authors required to do in relationship to Cornell Woolrich?
M.J. :The brief was clear: to come up with new stories in the Woolrich tradition, but clearly not pastiches and I think every single story in the book answers that requirement perfectly.
H.W. :What do you see as Woolrich's contribution to fiction?
M.J. :He, for me, represents the perfect form of noir: cities, femmes fatales, the work of fate, everyman characters let down by life or fate, races against the clock, doomed romanticism, and despite sometimes sometimes florid patches I think his prose has survived well to this day and age, and remains at times often wonderfully both poetic and bleak. And no one does atmosphere better than him.
H.W.: You got a few authors like Kim Newman not known for crime fiction. Was that important?
Kim is not just a great fan of noir as well as a fim expert and it was natural to solicit him. Even in his horror books there is that element. I also wanted to include as many women writers as I could so extended my reach widely and so happy Sam Howe, Tara Moss, the Portuguese literary author Ana Teresa Pereira (who is the ultimate Woolrich fan), Donna Moore (one of whose novels I published) was also a secret fan and I am so glad her contribution has just been shortlisted for the Edgar award.I also discovered musician (and writer) Max Décharné (from Gallon Drunk and the Flaming Stars) was a fan and, indeed, many of his songs would certainly fall into the 'noir' category. I think the breadth of contributions shows how much Woolrich's influence has spread beyond the borders of crime and mystery.
H.W. : What two or three writings would you introduce someone new to Woolrich to?
M.J. :I'm a huge fan of the 'Black' novels and so many of the stories are all-time classics but my favourites are 'I Married a Dead Man', 'Night Has a Thousand Eyes' and 'Waltz Into Darkness'.. I published a new collection of my own short stories last November and titled it 'Death Has Thousand Faces' in a nod to Woolrich and the heroine of my next novel 'Just A Girl with a Gun' is a hitwoman called Cornelia!
H.W. : Are there a couple other authors you would like to do this kind of anthology for?
'Black is the Night' was actually the first in a two-book contract and the second volume is a similar volume of new short stories in homage and inspired by my late friend J.G. Ballard and is already delivered and being published in November 2023 as 'Reports from the Deep End'. It features a similar palette of SF, crime and literary authors too, including Will Self, Michael Moorcock, David Gordon, James Grady, Christopher Fowler (one of the last stories he wrote before his death last month), Hanna Jameson, Iain Sinclair, Adrian McKinty , Jeff Noon and 20 others.