Last July 7th, National Book Store and Anvil Publishing launched the Philippine edition of the noir fiction anthology “Manila Noir” edited by Jessica Hagedorn. It’s a great collection with new stories by some of the best Filipino writers from here and abroad.
One of the stories that I really loved is “Comforter of the Afflicted” by F.H. Batacan. It features the iconic hero of her Palanca Award-winning novel “Smaller and Smaller Circles“, the Jesuit priest/criminologist Father Augusto Saenz.
I loved the characters in “Smaller Circles”, but I had minor issues about the plot, so I like that we get to see Saenz dealing with a new case in this short story. It’s just sad that his Dr. Watson, Father Jerome, did not appear here.
“Comforter of the Afflicted” is an emotional story, not just for the character that the case focused on, but for Saenz as well. Like in “Smaller Circles”, the characters were more appealing to me than the crime elements, but this time, I liked that aspect of the story too.
And while a nice, isolated house somewhere in the depths of Lagro, Quezon City isn’t the kind of location that immediately comes to mind when I think of noir set in Manila, this story definitely has very noir sensibilities.
I would like to share my recording of the reading by F.H. Batacan during the book launch. She’s a soft-spoken lady and I was some distance from an actual speaker, so I apologize if the volume of the audio isn’t that good. The woman who introduced Ms. Batacan is none other than the book’s editor, Jessica Hagedorn.