Actually, The Collected Stories isn’t strictly based on LA Noire for Xbox and PlayStation 3, it’s more of an accompanying product. Eight noir authors from all over the United States were invited by Rockstar Games to write darkly grimacing little vignettes that are set contemporaneously to events in the game. The year is 1947, Los Angeles is searching for its soul in the wake of the Black Dahlia murder, and wherever the lights shine brightest shadows are inevitably cast. The 1940s poster-style illustrations that open each chapter in the iBook edition are great, and really set that sort of mood.
The writers appearing in this book include Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Joe R Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Jonathan Santlofer (who also edited the book), Duane Swierczynski and Andrew Vachss. Each reveals a facet of ‘the life’ via their own noir storytelling. Megan Abbott, for instance, provides an impressionistic meander through a cavernous LA mansion during a drug-addled orgy. Desperation. Meanwhile in School for Murder, the aptly named Francine Prose explores method acting taken to deadly extremes. Dark irony.
Pornography, domestic violence, prostitution, the mob and various forms of larceny – all the other standard elements receive the correct amount of airtime too. None of it is quite the gritty, gutter-sniffing stuff you get from the likes of James Ellroy. This collection is more a light-handed introduction to the genre rather than a dense tome. Indeed, in his foreword Charles Ardai is at pains to explain what noir actually is. Like a cheeseburger, LA Noire is enjoyable, but if you’re into the heavier writers in this genre, you might be left hungry for steak.
Rockstar Games/Mulholland Books
iBook, Kindle, print
CFL Rating: 3 stars