Thursday, May 09, 2019

Chicanonautica: The Taste of Salsa Nocturna

Things go better with salsa. Especially if makes the inner ears tingle. It sure can make a night better.

When I saw the title Salsa Nocturna: A Bone Street Rumba Collection by Daniel José Older.

I was intrigued. Salsa after dark suggest death and Latin music. It's the sort of thing that gets my attention.

I had read one of the stories (they popped up in various magazines and anthologies, and liked it. Ghosts in a very gritty, contemporary New York, fast-paced, fantastic, and feeling very real.

I dug in, and enjoyed.

Salsa Nocturna isn't just a story collection. The stories all take place in the same haunted New York, often dealing with agents of the New York Council of the Dead.

These stories weave detailed, multi-faceted, multi-layered mosaic of Older’s New York.They deal with ghosts from different background, African, Caribbean, and Latino cultures, and their view of afterlives, and the supernatural are explored. The characters are of an wide-ranging ethnic gumbo.

I was constantly surprised. At first I was expecting a police procedural-style stories following a formula that could be easily adapted into a TV show or comic book--after all, that would be good business. But the volatile mix of the contents bubbles and varies, in length, format, subject. The all take place in this same setting, but there’s a whole lot of things going on.

Reading Sala Nocturna is a lot like being in a strange city, and wandering the bustling streets, full of mysterious, and fascinating things and goings on. You see the sights, head the sounds, smell the smells, feel the rhythms. It’s scary--and alluring. You find yourself exploring, wanting more, wanting to possess the urban environment.

And of course the urban environment is all the while possessing you.

What more could you want from a book? 

Maybe what you really want is more. And there are more. The Bone Street Rumba universe is further explored in the novels Half-ResurrectionBlues, Midnight Taxi Tango, and Battle Hill Bolero.

Ernest Hogan’s story “PeaceCon,” a slapstick comedy about social unrest and mind control, starring his masked luchador Steelsnake, will be in the next issue of Unfit Magazine.

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