Death Lit: An Avram Davidson Vibe

The historied dark mantle of Prague cloaks 14 stories of crime in this superior entry in Akashic’s City Noir series. A fair number of collections from this series have rolled through my paws over the years, with this one and the recent Montana Noir far better than the average.

Oakland Noir, another new-ish one, was kind of a dud — and all things being equal, Oakland ought to have been one of the best in this set.

Akashic has been popping these items out since 2004, so I figure you ought to know by now if you enjoy them or not (someone must, because there are dozens, with more always in the pipeline). For Prague Noir specifically I’m tipping you off to one story which I know some of you might like, and if you don’t want to buy the whole package new then just wait it out — keep an eye open for a cheap used copy later on so you can read “The Cabinet of Seven Pierced Books” by Petr Stančík.

I started that one and instantly thought, man, this reminds me of Avram Davidson’s adventures of Dr. Eszterhazy, set in a more fantasticated version of Europe. You have the “autarchic detective, one Egon Alter” dropping casually into the action and many other touches which ought to delight Eszterhazy fans.

And I have no idea if Stančík has ever heard of Avram, much less has read a word he wrote. Could be a case of a mindset, a cultural background, nudging him in a similar direction.

I’m not encouraging everyone who reads these words to seek the story out. If you like Avram, yes. Or if you enjoy films by Wojciech Haas such as The Sandglass and The Saragossa Manuscript.

If you want a sample for consideration, the following paragraph riffing on the ghetto jumped out at me:

Alongside the ordinary poor souls, there were crooks, kabbalists, cheats, hucksters, mystics, pessimists, lusty murderers, ghost-hunters-for-hire and their demons who hadn’t found their back to the astral world, black and salon magi, wounded poets, old angel-hunting women, former alchemists, abstract painters, perpetuum motion inventors, honey counterfeiters, Lilliputian prostitutes, forgers, cannibals (due to hunger or preference), door-to-door hypnotizers, and other lost beings lived there.

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