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News & Features » June 2016 » Tony Bellotto’s Introduction to Rio Noir

Tony Bellotto’s Introduction to Rio Noir

To celebrate the release of Rio Noir, the latest release from Akashic’s award-winning Noir Series, we’re pleased to give you a look behind the scenes with editor Tony Bellotto’s introduction, “Deciphering an Enigma.”

Deciphering an Enigma

The images of Rio de Janeiro are well known: high rises aligned along white sandy beaches, a blue sea, freshwater lakes, and luxuriant forests that stretch through winding mountains of stone; Sugar Loaf linked to the ground by cable cars in hypnotic shuttle; hang gliders crossing the sky in flights without destination; the open arms of Christ the Redeemer blessing a happy, cordial, mixed-race people ever ready to dance a samba or offer a welcoming smile to the tourists who move about in the streets admiring beautiful women shimmying nude atop floats in Carnival parades . . . Opa!

This is not a tourist guide. The city revealed in this book is a different Rio.

Even though famous landscapes are present in the pages of Rio Noir, what is exposed here is a world of shadows, blood, intrigue, violence, hideouts, and mystery (and also of humor, of course, as is necessary with any undertaking involving Cariocas).

Long ago, Rio ceased to be an idyllic city of tourist enchantment, and crime scenes of savage drug traffickers, violent cops, and corrupt politicians document that fact with disturbing regularity in newscasts worldwide. Nowadays, the image of the city of beautiful beaches, sensual women, lively gay people, and likable swindlers is inexorably tied to shootouts and bloody disputes between criminal factions. The divided city, fractured into a cosmopolitan middle class and a populace residing in neglected poverty-ridden communities, has become the poster child for a country of enormous social inequality and disquieting violence.

All of which holds great excitement as raw material for crime fiction!

This conclusion is paradoxical and somewhat disturbing, I admit, but is there any city more paradoxical than Rio de Janeiro?

The capital of Brazil from 1773 to 1960—and of the entire Portuguese Empire during the Napoleonic Wars—the international symbol of the nation, the principal tourist destination of the southern hemisphere, host city of the 2016 Olympics, characterized by the highest indices of violence and poverty, Rio is much more than the city seen on postcards, in socioeconomic statistics, and shocking newspaper reports.

The city is above all an enigma in search of being deciphered.

I may sound off base in stating that no one is better suited to decipher enigmas than writers of crime stories. Among other functions, noir fiction allows exploration of the social aspects, the human strengths and weaknesses that make up the daily life of any great city.

In an effort to decipher this enigma, I invited Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, MV Bill, Luiz Eduardo Soares, Guilherme Fiuza, Arthur Dapieve, Victoria Saramago, Arnaldo Bloch, Adriana Lisboa, Alexandre Fraga dos Santos, Marcelo Ferroni, Flávio Carneiro, Raphael Montes, and Luis Fernando Verissimo to join me in the creation of the anthology you are leafing through (not, I warn, without some risk of getting blood on your hands).

Choosing these authors was like climbing Sugar Loaf for the simple pleasure, after having stealthily scaled the sheer vertical rock, of gazing upon a limitless horizon. In this work, writers of both sexes skillfully move between fiction of different genres, journalism, humor, horror, philosophy, public safety, psychoanalysis, rock, rap, social and political activism, and law. Even those who had never written noir fiction were moved to tell stories that, in distinct forms and twists, present a puzzle that dares to test the limits of the genre. Whether we have succeeded in deciphering an enigma with the dramas of our procurers, card readers, colonels, cops, traffickers, socialites, slum dwellers, embezzlers, tourists, brokers, detectives, journalists, politicians, assassins, editors, outlaws, travelers, coup plotters, writers, lovers, and everyday citizens, I don’t know. But we have surely added a large shadow to the sunny landscape of this wonderful city.


TonyBellottoTONY BELLOTTO is author of the best-selling Bellini mystery novels, which have been released as major feature films and translated widely, establishing him as the preeminent writer of Brazilian detective fiction. He is also a guitarist and songwriter for the famed Brazilian rock band Titãs (The Titans), which has released twenty albums and sold over six million albums. Bellotto also writes for the newspaper Globo and hosts a television show. He is the editor of Rio Noir.

Posted: Jun 8, 2016

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