Drag Noir by K.A. Laity. Book review

DRAG NOIR by K.A. Laity, Fox Spirit Books, p/b

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Weird Noir and Noir Carnival are first, this is the third in the series where girls dress like boys and boys dress like girls. Endorsed by popular drag queen RuPaul, here are eight stories about drag queens and drag kings in a noir setting. So you understand what the stories mean, there is a foreword by editor, K.A. Laity and an introduction to Drag Noir from Bryan Asbury and Dana Gravesen.

When we hear the term Noir Fiction, we tend to think of 1930s prohibition era US where crime was rife, with the underworld and loose women. Drag Noir has the darkness of this era, or any era where there is a sense of dominance in male and female roles or, gender-swapping. In K.A. Laity’s foreword, she explains the pre-conceived gender role she never wanted to have thrust upon her as a girl. Like many, she wanted to be the cool guy from the Western, hard, slick and handsome. It was only adolescence that changed everything. Most of us can recall the glamorous Marlene Dietrich as she was the epitome of the empowered female who could look glamorous, yet powerful and sometimes masculine. Madonna, who reinvents her look every two minutes had a time where she wore a suit and sported a very manly cigar, and don’t forget Lady Gaga’s very male alter-ego.

Different stories are in many settings at different times; Richard Godwin’s The Meaning of Skin sounds like an older one about love and deceit and what happens when life doesn’t go right. Wheel Man by Tess Makovsky is modern with a car theme, Justine gets told by Fred who thinks his customers won’t do deals with a woman. But what would happen if Justine became Danny? Tess’s story is convincing, with Justine proving her point to Fred in the only way she can. Trespassing by Michael S. Chong has a man who has always believed he was meant to be a girl and how he deals with his own troubled feelings. Lucky in Cards takes part in a casino, a perfect noir setting, and somewhat of a cliché where things don’t always go your way in Vegas.

What I like about the anthology is that K.A. Laity has taken the time out to make sure she has made her idea live up to the expectations of many noir and drag readers. She has literally had the authors featured here go into the minds of their characters to bring them to life with all their problems, shattered dreams, bad love lives, one drag queen is being abused by her lover and wants a relationship she can be proud of, others like in Wheel Man have a hard time proving they can be a girl and do a man’s job in a man’s world. These stories are short enough so that they don’t drag on, but create their own worlds full of details and comedy as well as tragedy.