Small Press Crime Fiction Week in Review
Readers of the Incident Report will notice a big change in the format of weekly recap, gone are the bullet items. Instead, there are more in-depth segments of articles. Also, there is a short story section. Hopefully, you’ll find this format a bit easier to follow.
You can use these links to navigate the Incident Report:
Before jumping into the fray of last week’s recap, let’s do the first cover reveal at Unlawful Acts: Alec Cizak’s “Breaking Glass” (ABC Group Documentation).
Alec Cizak is the author of “Down on the Street” and the publisher and editor of the anthology “Pulp Modern“. I reviewed “Down on the Street” back in June 2017. I’m also a big fan of the cover designer J.T. Lindroos. “Breaking Glass” will be available sometime in June or July.
From the publisher’s description of “Breaking Glass”:
Chelsea Farmer is in hell. She’s addicted to opiates. She participates in home invasions with her fellow junkies to feed her habit. As things get increasingly violent, Chelsea realizes she needs to escape before her friends do something none of them will be able to walk away from…
Woody Haut‘s essay It’s a Noir World is brilliant. Most likely you care about crime fiction–you are here after all–, so trust me when I say you should read Haut’s essay at Retreats from Oblivion. Hell, I’d be happy if you skipped this edition of the Incident Report and just read Haut’s post, it’s that good. Haut does a great job examining at the giants of noir: Thompson, Himes, etc. and how we emulate them in today’s world.
But noir fiction has been investigating the contours of this nightmare ever since Hammett’s 1929 “Red Harvest”, in which Mr. Big who lords over “Poisonville” and its mining company, beats down the strikers but looses control of his city to the very thugs he employs. Hammett’s world view would later be elaborated upon by others, not least Jim Thompson, David Goodis and Chester Himes. These writers described, to one degree or another, the world as one in which class determines situation, chaos dominates, prejudices reign, nothing good lasts, and everything is for sale. So it’s not like we haven’t been warned. Perhaps what we face at present is just payback for an inertia that has placed us all in the Club Mar-a-Lago level of hell, where the streets are paved with gold-painted shit, the big rock candy mountain is coated in novichok, and every strangelovian nuclear device has been placed on a hair trigger. Or for all those hours we’ve spent watching TV, eating junk food, settling for the lowest common denominator, while watching others being criminalised, deported, renditioned, droned and scammed by trickle-down politics.
You also might want to read The Politics of Crime Fiction by Michael Niemann at Crime Reads. Niemann that “crime fiction and thrillers contribute to the reproduction of the system itself.” He goes on to say:
Here lies the ultimately conservative angle of crime fiction. The “happy” ending, the solved crime, the culprit brought to justice, all restore the disrupted reality. Rather than expanding our sense that reality doesn’t have to be the way it is, crime fiction, after first raising that possibility, neatly restores reality to the status quo ante. We are relieved that the good side won and return to our lives. Although it can and does critique specific aspects of society, it does not present a general critique of everyday life …
Jason Beech interviews Kate Laity ostensibly about Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall. Laity is a big fan of The Blank Wall and the conversation covers a wide-range of topics with Sanxay Holding’s book being the linchpin.
You don’t have to be a sleazy low-life junkie jazz musician thief etc to write noir. It’s a kind of backhanded romanticism about writing.
If you didn’t know Chuck Palahniuk was robbed, robbed blind.
A Manhattan accountant cooked the books at a prestigious literary agency that represents top writers, including “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk, bilking its clients of millions and leaving the company on the brink of bankruptcy, according to legal papers.
Palahniuk wrote an interesting piece on his website about the situation. I was interested in his mea culpa toward piracy and his publishers, “So on the minus side, I apologize for cursing my publishers. And I apologize for any rants about piracy. My publishers had paid the royalties. Piracy, when it existed, was small scale.”
My other take away is that I see this every day with writers who are not as famous and not bestsellers, they get ripped off all the time from publishers. Maybe it’s not in the millions, maybe it’s only hundreds of dollars or even dozens of dollars, but does it matter. Writers end up putting a lot of trust into a system that is designed to chew them up and spit them out. Buy a book today and hope that some money finds its way back to the writer.
Over at The Thrill Begins, Eric Beetner writes about the trilogy and our need for threes, Three Is A Magic Number: Crafting a Trilogy. Beetner just finished his Lars & Shaine series and he chats with writers S.W. Lauden and Sean Chercover, and editor Jacquelyn Ben-Zekrey. As popular as trilogies are Ben-Zekrey warns:
“A trilogy has to have a big idea to sustain it. The most common mistake is to put all the quiet moments into book 2. Save some of these quiet moments for book 3, so readers are not overwhelmed by the action in your final installment. The best advice I can give someone is to “just have a lot of stuff happen.” Write the book with your “lots of stuff” and then pull out your high school English primer, flip to the page featuring the old Plot Diagram and Narrative Arc, and line up your plot. Each book should have all these elements, and each conflict/climax should be bigger than the preceding book. One other piece of advice: avoid specificity about dates and places in the first book when you can. You’ll be stuck with them in later books.”
At Mysteristas Mark Stevens talks about the late Gary Reilly, author of the Asphalt Warrior series and the Private Palmer Series. Running Meter Press has released “The Circumstantial Man” by Reilly back in April of this year.
And in those forty years, Gary produced twenty-five (25!) novels. And was never published. He kept writing and writing despite getting zero encouragement from publishers. He had only one bit of success in his life when it comes to publishing his work and that was one short story he sent to The Iowa Review. It was published in the Fall of 1977.
Check out The Asphalt Warrior site for more information about Reilly’s books.
Lesa’ Book Critiques interviews Tracy Clark author of “Broken Clocks” (Kensington), the story of a former African-American cop who heads her own one-woman private investigation agency. Asked about a writer who deserves more attention, Clark says, “The late Eleanor Taylor Bland. Her Marti MacAlister series about an African-American female detective is awesome, a real pleasure to read. I had the honor of knowing Eleanor. She was a thoughtful, elegant writer.”
The blog also reviews “Broken Places” writing: “Tracy Clark’s debut mystery, Broken Places, is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Her story of a tough African-American cop turned private investigator reminds me of one of the legendary detectives in modern mysteries, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone.”
My reaction to the recent Book Riot article, 12 Mystery Novels for Fans of Literary Novels by Heather Bottoms, was “Oh, dear God.” Nick Kolakowski, the author of “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps” and “Slaughterhouse Blues“, also tweeted of his displeasure of the absurdity of Bottoms’s article. And when the Book Riot Twitter account awkwardly defended their article, I offered Kolakowski some space here at Do Some Damage to examine the issues of the literary world’s behavior toward genre fiction.
If these critics bothered to crack open a broader selection of crime-fiction novels—either classic or contemporary—they’d find character arcs and philosophical nuance to rival whatever passes for literary fiction most days.
When I was 18 I worked at a transmission shop. I was also working with a Vietnamese dealer named Dong (also 18). We sold cocaine, ecstasy and weed. He supplied, I distributed. A disagreement over money escalated into threats, then, later, a fistfight. He died from injuries. A friend and I covered it up. Literally. And were charged and convicted.
I’m 36 now. I’ve served 18 on a life sentence, housed in maximum security on High Risk since 2005 for two escapes. A couple of my best friends are on Death Row.
The BOLO Books Composite Sketch this week features Tara Laskowski, the writer of the short story collection “Bystanders” and editor of Smoke Long Quarterly. Laskowski lauds Tana French, “I can hardly wait for another one of her books to come out, and when it does, I need to devour it immediately. I love her writing style and her characters. She’s a master at voice. “
Failure was easier than coasting. It opened the door to every possible excuse I could pull out of my ass! The teacher hated me! The subject didn’t make sense! Why did I even need to know any of this, I’d never use it in the real world! Those statements were plentiful and delicious and like the cuddliest blankets in the known universe. All I needed was to develop the perfect excuse; to frame the world against me narrative and I was safe again. If I always expected failure, the next logical step was to just skip to the part that felt good—the excuses.
Robert Lopresti reviews Lawrence Maddox‘s “Fast Bang Booze” (Shotgun Honey). Maddox’s has been climbing up my TBR for the past few weeks and it near the top. Lopresti’s review pushes on it that much harder writing, “It’s a wild ride and it reads a lot faster than 25,000 words sounds.”
Not crime fiction, but bizarro–it interests me. Ben Arzate reviews “Stacking Doll” by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press). Arzate writes, “Benjamin is deeply in love with his girlfriend Ynaria. He wants nothing more than to marry her. The only problem is that Ynaria is a living Russian nesting doll, and marriages between humans and nesting dolls are frowned upon.”
Tom Leins reviews CS DeWildt‘s “Suburban Dick” (Shotgun Honey). Leins, author of “Skull Meat” and the upcoming “Meat Bubbles and Other Stories” (Near to the Knuckle), writes of DeWildt confounds “expectations and exploring the seedy underbelly of small-town America, and this book does both very well.”
At Pulp Fiction Reviews, Andrew Salmon reviews “The Fairfax Incident” by Terrence McCauley (Polis Books). Salmon writes, “‘The Fairfax Incident’ delivers. If you haven’t read any of McCauley’s work this is a good place to start. I highly recommend it.”
Craig Sisterson reviews Adam Christopher’s “Killing is My Business” (Tor Books). Sisterson writes “this was a fast, interesting read that perhaps gets a little knocked down more due to the brilliance of its predecessor more than any inherent issues with this tale.”
Paul D. Brazill, the writer of the forthcoming “Last Year’s Man” (All Due Respect Books), writes an occasional post called Recommended Read. This week’s edition features “Untethered” by John Bowie. Brazill calls it “a violent and intense read”.
Another not crime fiction review is Amber Sparks review of “White Lies / Garbage Time” by Sam Pink (Soft Skull Press) in Chicago Review of Books. Sparks writes:
Pink’s work emerged from that time and from the general orbit of that alt-lit crowd, but his talent, originality, humor, and subject matter lifted him above the alt-lit classification and made people like me solid fans. He wasn’t writing, like so many alt-lit kids, boring fiction about being bored in an upper-middle-class life and doing boring drugs in a boring bedroom. He was writing – has always been writing – about people on and outside the margins of society.
An author known for his or her horror chops switching to crime fiction would be an intriguing development and something that would make readers wonder about the end result. In the case of Laird Barron, that was not the case. Barron is one of the most talented voices in contemporary fiction, and switching genre only means he gets to flex a different set of muscles. After reading “Blood Standard”, however, I’m ready to make a declaration that will send horror fans running for their pitchforks: I’d be perfectly happy if Barron only gave us Isaiah Coleridge novels for the rest of his career.
At Flash Fiction Offensive, Travis Richardson‘s A Misunderstanding is a blistering piece of flash fiction.
After the call ends, Russell cannot stop his hands from shaking. He’s screwed up before, but nothing on this scale. “Fuck me.” He sprints up the stairs. Entering his bedroom, he wakes his wife, Phoebe.
I saw Ed Aymar read Company at a Noir at the Bar. I’m glad the story found a home at Shotgun Honey for those that couldn’t make it.
“Company’s here,” April Wilson called out. She gathered herself, tried to smooth out the half-moons her fingernails had dug into her palms.
Peter, her husband, opened the door to their tiny apartment and saw Bruce Howe standing outside with a six pack of Zima and a shit-eating grin. Bruce’s silver BMW was slashed across two spaces in the parking lot behind him.
“Wilson! Ready for our threesome?”
The good news is that Court Merrigan may have a book finished and an excerpt is at Tough. I debated long an hard on whether to read it or not as I would rather read the book. I compromised and read just a bit, just enough to know it’s good and that I wanted to read more. I content with that. Now you need to decide if you’ll read Ruby Behemoth or not.
Ruby Hix stood outside the gates of the Women’s Penitentiary in Chowchilla, California. Looked up and down the dusty highway for Ivy but Ivy was not there.
She waited an hour outside the gates, as long as the guards would let her, then walked down to the bus stop. Caught the 9303 bus down to Fresno. Fresno hadn’t changed much in these seven years and six months. Eleven city blocks to Gallo Union Pawn Shop, blinking back all the light and life and noise of the hot summer streets. A dull gnawing in her lower belly reminded her she needed tampons, pronto. She stepped into the sudden cool darkness of the shop and walked down an aisle of pawned leather jackets breathing in the scent of thwarted men. A couple other patrons noticed her two hundred and twenty ropy pounds of coiled energy and decided to look elsewhere.
At Near to the Knuckle, Russ Goldstein‘s The End of the Road tells the story of a man confronted with his past and the consequence of his decisions.
All I was trying to do was to keep the peace. That’s all I was ever trying to do.
Jumpy rolled up on me at The Buck Stop, the seedy bar I escaped to when I needed to get away from myself. A tap on my shoulder, and there he was. We didn’t bro hug, fist bump or shake hands. Just eyeballed each other for a while, both of us waiting for the other to start the conversation. Was I surprised? It had been a long time, but deep inside I accepted the fact that the past never really leaves you, no matter how hard you try to leave it.
Patricia Abbott, the author of the short story collection “I Bring Sorrow & Other Stories of Transgression” (Polis Books), has a story at Noircon’s Stories from Oblivion, Walking Amsterdam. Abbott writes in a style that evokes Anne Tyler and Richard Yates. I am enthralled by her short stories. I reviewed her short story collection writing that her stories “captures the ether-like disenchantment and weariness of a people lost.”
He was waiting for his luggage at Schiphol Airport when he spotted her. She was wearing the somber, seal-gray coat he had given her last Christmas, and it was only the crimson scarf at her throat that caught his eye. They had decided it was silly for her to meet his plane. He had outlined the reasons against it; she nodded her acceptance. But she was here anyway, as lovely as a porcelain figurine amidst the Dutch pea-soupers in their bulky winter dress. Involuntarily, his hand rose. She placed one gloved hand up to the glass in response and smiled. The delicacy of her movement encapsulated all he loved about her.
by Chris Bauer
Whatever happened to Jane Roe’s baby? Norma McCorvey, of Caddo-Comanche heritage, did not terminate the pregnancy that led her to become the anonymous plaintiff of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court women’s rights case Roe v Wade because in 1971, when the motion was first argued, abortion in the U.S. was illegal. The Jane Roe real-life child would now be a woman in her late forties, the potential of her polarizing celebrity unknown to her. A religious rights splinter group has blackmailed its way into learning the identity of the Roe baby, the product of a closed adoption. To what end, only a new Supreme Court case will reveal. Tourette’s-afflicted K9 bounty hunter Judge Drury, a Marine, stands in the way of the splinter group’s attempt at stacking the Supreme Court via blackmail, murder, arson, sleight of hand, and secret identities. (Buy)
Meat Bubbles and other stories
by Tom Leins
(Near to the Knuckle)
“Tom Leins’ Paignton is close to Hell on earth. His battle-scarred PI Joe Rey is navigating every circle of it here – hookers, pimps, pornographers, killers, crooked cops, and every other grotesque you could care (or not) to imagine make up the colourful characters in this grim collection of noir from one of the premier writers of gut-wrenching dark fiction currently at work. One day people will talk about the fiction of Tom Leins the same way they talk about Derek Raymond’s – get on board now and when that day comes you’ll be able to brag you were round at the start.”
— Paul Heatley, author of An Eye For An Eye (Near To The Knuckle and Fatboy (All Due Respect).
”If you had to kill someone with a book, you’d use this one. Cracked skulls. Bruised knuckles. Wounds in the shape of unnameable body parts. Characters as broken and misshapen as the populace of a violent noir hell-scape. Tom Leins writes like a man skinned by jackals and doused in lighter fluid. Meat Bubbles & Other Stories is a new paradigm in noir – Paignton noir, an aesthetic built on images that’d make a seasoned leg-breaker squeal like a school girl.”
— Matt Phillips, author of Bad Luck City (Near To The Knuckle and Accidental Outlaws (All Due Respect).
“Welcome to the nightmare factory – there’s dark and then there’s Tom Leins’ Paignton… By parts a mix of the brutality of Hubert Selby Jr and the pure noir-ish banter of Ray Banks with more than a dash of the good old ultra-violence. Thirteen brutal shorts and then the extended nightmare of Snuff Racket. You’d have to go a long way to beat the sheer violence, brutality, humour and brilliance of Meat Bubbles.”
— Benedict J. Jones, author of Pennies For Charon and The Devil’s Brew (Crime Wave Press).
Still licking his wounds after the brutal events of SKULL MEAT, Paignton private investigator Joe Rey is reluctant to take on another case that could have violent repercussions. However, a lucrative pay-day from a soon-to-retire cop tests his resolve, and Rey quickly finds himself on the trail of a deranged plastic surgeon with a queasy line in body modification procedures. Over the course of a long, bloody summer, Rey tangles with rogue ex-cops, suburban hitmen, neo-Nazi scumbags and even Paignton’s richest man – a notorious hoarder of unknown horrors. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it…
edited by Lincoln Michel
(Black Balloon Publishing)
Forty very short stories that reimagine the genre of crime writing from some of today’s most imaginative and thrilling writers
“An intriguing take on crime/noir writing, this collection of 40 very short stories by leading and emerging literary voices—Amelia Gray, Brian Evenson, Elizabeth Hand, Carmen Maria Machado, Benjamin Percy, Laura van den Berg and more—investigates crimes both real and imagined. Despite their diminutive size, these tales promise to pack a punch.” —Chicago Tribune, 1 of 25 Hot Books for Summer
Tiny Crimes gathers leading and emerging literary voices to tell tales of villainy and intrigue in only a few hundred words. From the most hard-boiled of noirs to the coziest of mysteries, with diminutive double crosses, miniature murders, and crimes both real and imagined, Tiny Crimes rounds up all the usual suspects, and some unusual suspects, too. With illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook and flash fiction by Carmen Maria Machado, Benjamin Percy, Amelia Gray, Adam Sternbergh, Yuri Herrera, Julia Elliott, Elizabeth Hand, Brian Evenson, Charles Yu, Laura van den Berg, and more, Tiny Crimes scours the underbelly of modern life to expose the criminal, the illegal, and the depraved. (Buy)
by Pol Koutsakis
(Bitter Lemon Press)
Stratos Gazis hates being called a hit man. What he is, is a conscientious fixer. He fixes problems that few can fix. Things that people are willing to pay handsomely to get done provided he concludes the targets deserve their fate. The story centers around the blue-eyed orphan Emma, the “baby blue” of the title, a beautiful teenage girl with a talent for card tricks of exceptional sophistication – all the more impressive for her tender years and the blindness that has afflicted her since the age of eight. Emma and her adoptive father, a former investigative journalist, roam the streets of Athens together, earning enough to keep body and soul together by performing Chaplinesque sketches. When the ex-journalist is brutally murdered, Angelino, a well-connected Athenian underworld figure, takes the girl under his wing and retains the services of Stratos to find her father’s killers. Meanwhile, Costas Dragas, a top homicide cop and Gazis’s best friend, has taken on the investigation of a spate of murders of pedophiles, and as usual, has gone to war with the media. It slowly emerges that their cases intersect and that corporate interests, more powerful than they could ever have imagined, lie behind the murders they both need to solve. Through a combination of experience and the ability to read the ailing city, its residents and its streets with consummate skill, the case is solved, but not without some subliminal tutoring from a great classic of the cinema. (Buy)
by Madeleine Swann
No one knows where or what Tower Ltd Surprise Packages is or why it’s sending gifts to complete strangers across The City. All they know is that each package is the best thing that’s ever happened to them…or the worst.
In one box is a packet of seeds that allows you to grow your perfect date. In another there’s a cupcake that causes anyone who eats it to grow eyeballs all over their skin. There’s also a parcel with a mousetrap that turns all your enemies tiny. Or you could receive your autobiography, which when signed, makes your every thought famous. Or maybe even a key to a secret door that leads to another dimension where all your unfinished and abandoned projects exist. But with each package received comes both fortune and misfortune that will surely result in unexpected consequences.
Like a season of episodes from The Twilight Zone or Friday the 13th The Series, comes a collection of dark and humorous stories from the premier British female author of bizarro fiction. (Buy)
by Joe Clifford
Perfect for readers who appreciate the novels of Dennis Lehane with deeply flawed characters struggling to walk the righteous path.
At an AA meeting, handyman and part-time investigator Jay Porter meets a recovering addict who needs his help. In the midst of another grueling northern New Hampshire winter, Amy Lupus’ younger sister, Emily, has gone missing from the Coos County Center, the newly opened rehab run by Jay’s old nemeses, Adam and Michael Lombardi. As Jay begins looking into Emily’s disappearance, he finds that all who knew Emily swear that she’s never used drugs. She’s a straight shooter and an intern at a newspaper investigating the Center and the horrendous secret hidden in it―or beneath it.
When Jay learns of a “missing” hard drive, he is flung back to five years ago when his own junkie brother, Chris, found a hard drive belonging to Lombardi Construction. For years Jay assumed that the much-sought-after hard drive contained incriminating photos of Adam and Michael’s father, which contributed to Chris’ death. But now he believes that hard drive may have harbored a secret far more sinister, which the missing Lupus sister may have unwittingly discovered. The deeper Jay digs, the more poisoned the ground gets, and the two cases become one, yielding a toxic truth with local fallout―and far-reaching ramifications. (Buy) 5 June
The Fairfax Incident
by Terrence McCauley
Manhattan, 1933. Charlie Doherty may have been kicked off the force after The Grand Central Massacre, but thanks to a wealthy benefactor, his private detective business is booming. Catering to the city’s wealthy elite, Doherty is making a good living chasing down wayward spouses and runaway socialites when the case of a lifetime lands in his lap. Mrs. Fairfax, a wealthy widow, hires Doherty to prove her husband’s suicide wasn’t actually a suicide. It was murder.
At his benefactor’s urging, Doherty takes the case. He expects to pocket a nice chunk of change to prove what everyone already knows: Walter Fairfax walked into his office in the Empire State Building one morning, took a phone call, and shot himself. But Charlie took the widow’s money, so he begins to dig.
He quickly finds out there is more to the Fairfax incident than a simple suicide. Before long, he discovers that Mr. Fairfax was leading a double life; running with a dangerous crowd that has a sinister agenda that threatens to plunge Charlie’s city – and his country – into another war.
In an investigation that quickly involves global implications, Doherty finds himself against not only some of the most powerful people in New York City, but against the most evil men in the world. (Buy) 5 June
São Paulo Noir
edited by Tony Bellotto
Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. On the heels of Rio Noir, beloved Brazilian rock star and best-selling novelist Tony Bellotto ushers another world-class city into the Akashic Noir Series.
Brand-new stories by: Tony Bellotto, Olivia Maia, Marcelino Freire, Beatriz Bracher & Maria S. Carvalhosa, Fernando Bonassi, Marcelo Rubens Paiva, Marçal Aquino, Jô Soares, Mario Prata, Ferréz, Vanessa Barbara, Ilana Casoy, and Drauzio Varella.
From the introduction by Tony Bellotto:
Encyclopedias will say that São Paulo is the main financial, corporate, and commercial center of South America. The census will show that São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, the Americas, the Portuguese-speaking world, and the entire Southern Hemisphere…Scholars will inform us that São Paulo is the most multicultural city in Brazil, having received, since 1870, millions of immigrants from every part of the planet, and that it is the city with the largest populations of people of Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, and Arab origin outside their respective countries…Experts will assure us that São Paulo has a high crime rate. Sociologists will confirm that the city has an area known as Cracolândia (Crackland) and that among the violent and neglected communities spread along its periphery, one bears the ironic name Paraisópolis (Paradise City). Politicians will roar that São Paulo is the engine that drives Brazil…
More than historians and sociologists, writers have always been able to transform cities into great characters. This is the way we decipher devouring sphinxes. (Buy)
Santa Cruz Noir
edited by Susie Bright
Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Following in the footsteps of Los Angeles Noir, San Francisco Noir, San Diego Noir, Orange County Noir, and Oakland Noir, this new volume further reveals the seedy underbelly of the Left Coast.
Brand-new stories by: Tommy Moore, Jessica Breheny, Naomi Hirahara, Calvin McMillin, Liza Monroy, Elizabeth McKenzie, Jill Wolfson, Ariel Gore, Jon Bailiff, Maceo Montoya, Micah Perks, Seana Graham, Vinnie Hansen, Peggy Townsend, Margaret Elysia Garcia, Lou Mathews, Lee Quarnstrom, Dillon Kaiser, Beth Lisick, and Wallace Baine.
From the introduction by Susie Bright:
Every town has its noir-ville. It’s easy to find in Santa Cruz. We live in what’s called “paradise,” where you can wake up in a pool of blood with the first pink rays of the sunrise peeking out over our mountain range. The dewy mist lifts from the bay. Don’t hate us because we’re beautiful–we were made that way, like Venus rising off the foam with a brick in her hand. We can’t help it if you fall for it every time…
“If I lived in a place like this,” visitors often say, “I’d wake up with a smile every day.”
Oh, we do, thank you for that. There’s no beauty like a merciless beauty–and like every crepuscular predator, she thrives at dawn and dusk. You’re just the innocent we’ve been waiting for, with your big paper cone of sugar-shark cotton, whipped out of pure nothing. We have just the ride for you, the longest tunnel ever. Santa Cruz is everything you ever dreamed, and everything you ever screamed, in one long drop you’ll never forget. (Buy)
edited by Chris Abani
Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Now, West Africa enters the Noir Series arena, meticulously edited by one of Nigeria’s best-known authors.
Brand-new stories by: Chris Abani, Nnedi Okorafor, E.C. Osondu, Jude Dibia, Chika Unigwe, A. Igoni Barrett, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Adebola Rayo, Onyinye Ihezukwu, Uche Okonkwo, Wale Lawal, ‘Pemi Aguda, and Leye Adenle.
From the introduction by Chris Abani:
Lagos has, like many coastal cities, a very checkered and noir past. It is the largest city in Nigeria and its former capital. It is also the largest megacity on the African continent, with a population approximating twenty-one million, and by itself is the fourth-largest economy in Africa…It is rumored that there are more canals in Lagos than in Venice. Except in Lagos they are often unintentional. Gutters that have become waterways and lagoons fenced in by stilt homes or full of logs for a timber industry most of us don’t know exists. All of it skated by canoes as slick as any dragonfly. There are currently no moonlight or other gondola rides available…
The thirteen stories that comprise this volume stretch the boundaries of “noir” fiction, but each one of them fully captures the essence of noir, the unsettled darkness that continues to lurk in the city’s streets, alleys, and waterways…Together, these stories create an unchartered path through the center of Lagos and out to its peripheries, revealing so much more truth at the heart of this tremendous city than any guidebook, TV show, film, or book you are likely to find. (Buy)
The Science of Paul
by Aaron Philip Clark
Ex-convict Paul Little has just walked out on the only woman who has ever loved him to return to a life of crime in Philadelphia. But when Paul gets involved with a petty thug who is later murdered, he finds himself pinned between the volatile gangster accused of the crime and the straight-laced detective who put Paul away years ago. Realizing the city may be the death of him, Paul looks to escape to North Carolina and live alone on a farm left to him by his recently deceased grandfather.
Can Paul survive long enough to make it to the succor of the farm? Will he inevitably return to a life behind bars? Or is it his fate to die a victim in Philadelphia?
The Science of Paul is a stunning tale of redemption and self-exploration, as one man navigates the precariousness of the streets and the inner workings of his mind. (Buy) 8 June
Blood and Water
by J David Osborne
(King Shot Press)
After discovering a body in a local fishing hole, two brothers come to terms with their own poverty as they’re inescapably drawn into a surreal world of dangerous
Set against a rural Oklahoma backdrop, Blood and Water is a story of family responsibility, the lure of easy outs and even easier scores, and our own violent impulses.
“Working class fiction at its best . . . desperation, busted dreams, and hard times.”—Benjamin Whitmer, author of Cry Father (Buy)
Last Year’s Man
by Paul D. Brazill
(All Due Respect Books)
A troubled, aging hitman leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.
Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.
Praise for LAST YEAR’S MAN:
“Brazill offers a series of amusing episodes filled with breezy banter in this offbeat slice of British noir.” —Publishers Weekly
“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humour and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy
“Paul D. Brazill is the Crown Prince of Noir. That’s my opinion, granted, but I stand by it. For those who require proof, just pick up his latest novel, Last Year’s Man, and it will be clear why I make that statement. All hail the crown prince!” —Les Edgerton, author of The Rapist, The Bitch, Just Like That and others
“Brazill is brilliant, a unique voice which stands out from the crowd.” —Keith Nixon, author of the Solomon Gray books. (Buy) 22 June
A Healthy Fear of Man
by Aaron Philip Clark
Having survived near death in Philadelphia, Paul Little begins a new life on his deceased grandfather’s farm in Pharris County, North Carolina. But Paul’s self-imposed exile is short-lived when he meets “Bo”, his grandfather’s old friend, and Gilly Catlett, a precocious girl with a dark secret. Paul and Gilly form an unlikely friendship and when her body is discovered strangled and floating in Paul’s pond, the Sheriff deems Paul suspect number one. Paul soon learns there is no justice in Pharris County. Rumors of wrongful convictions, corruption of county officials and law enforcement, and racial intolerance that echoes views of the past ensures Paul an uphill battle. With Bo at his side and the help of an empathetic local, Luisa Ferry, Paul fights to prove his innocence while hunting for Gilly’s killer.
A Healthy Fear of Man examines life in today’s rural south, where the past is not inconsequential, the line between guilt and innocence is blurred and anyone is capable of murder. (Buy) 22 June
by John Way Comunale
A filthy barfly haunts the bar down the road. He lives off the leftover dregs of the patrons’ beers and spent cigarettes he finds on the ground. He may be living in the trunk of someone’s car. His name is Scummer. He’s mysterious and elusive. He’s unbound by inhibitions and you want to be just like him. (Buy) 29 June
The Human Alchemy
by Michael Griffin
Heralded as one of the leading voices in contemporary weird fiction, Michael Griffin returns with his second collection, The Human Alchemy. Here you will find eleven magnificent tales of the strange and sublime, the familiar and the disquieting, where dreamlike beauty and breathtaking horror intertwine. Featuring an introduction by S.P. Miskowski. (Buy) 30 June
by Scott Cole
Jesse Jinx is a porn star. She has dreams of starting her own adult film production company where she and the other actors will be treated more fairly. But there won’t be a production company if she can’t come up with the money—or if there aren’t any porn stars left.
A deranged killer is on the loose, targeting adult entertainers, and choking them to death with a weapon that leaves no trace of itself. When the authorities refuse to help Jesse and her two closest friends, the three women decide to take matters into their own hands . . . with axes. As their colleagues fall one by one, they have a plan to stay alive—and they’re ready to hatchet! (Buy) 2 July
Now That We’re Alone
by Nicholas Day
(Bizarro Pulp Press)
“I’ve had a wonderful time, really the best. Do you want to come inside? It’s still early. I’d love to tell you a story. But first, let me take off my face…” Now That We’re Alone 11 short stories from Nicholas Day, celebrating the weird, wicked, and wonderful monsters hiding in the dark, hiding behind their human masks. (Buy) 7 July
by Rob Hart
“Ash McKenna is my favorite kind of hero, a tough guy romantic with a smart mouth and a dark past.”―Chelsea Cain
The final book in Rob Hart’s acclaimed Ash McKenna series shows that Ash can go home again…but it might cost him everything.
Amateur private investigator Ash McKenna is home. After more than a year on the road he’s ready to face the demons he ran away from in New York City. And he’s decided what he wants to do with his life: Become a private investigator, for real. Licensed and everything. No more working as a thug for hire. But within moments of stepping off the plane, Ginny Tonic, the drag queen crime lord who once employed him―and then tried to have him killed―asks to see him.
One of her newest drag queen soldiers has gone missing, and Ginny suspects she’s been ensnared by the burgeoning heroin scene on Staten Island. Ginny wants Ash to find her. Because he’s the best, and because he knows Staten Island, his home borough. Ash is hesitant―but Ginny’s offer of $10,000 is enough to get him on his feet. And the thought of a lost kid and a bereft family is too much for him to bear.
He accepts, and quickly learns there’s something much bigger at play. Some very dangerous people are vying for control of the heroin trade on Staten Island, which is recording the highest rate of overdose deaths in the city. As Ash navigates deadly terrain, he find his most dangerous adversary might be his own past. Because those demons he ran away from have been waiting for him to come back. (Buy) 10 July
Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery
by Andrew Shaffer
This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.
Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted–the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.
Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction–and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.(Buy) 14 July
Unloaded Vol. 2
edited by Eric Beetner
(Down & Out Books)
The Anthony-nominated collection of crime stories without guns—the collection we didn’t want to be necessary—is back for Volume 2.
Two dozen more crime writers have come together to raise their voices and take pen in hand to call for a sensible and reasoned debate about guns in America. As the mass shootings continue, the avoidable accidents, the suicides, the gun violence that consumes our country rolls on unabated and unaddressed by our leadership other than to say, “Now is not the time to discuss it,” these crime writers have chosen to start the dialogue.
In stories of crime, mystery and suspense these authors have left the guns out to show for a short while that we can do without them and the plot doesn’t fall apart. Maybe, in a small way, we can show that the American way of life doesn’t cease to be, either.
Not anti-gun, Unloaded Vol. 2 is pro-reason. These authors comprise gun owners and non-owners, voters on both sides of the political aisle. The cause that unites us all is the desire to see the senseless killing stop and to be able to have the discussion without the divisive language, vitriol and name calling that too often accompanies this debate.
The top priority in these stories is to entertain with thrilling action and suspense that readers know and love about a crime story. To do so without guns leads to some creative leaps from writers who spin tales of simians on the loose, androids with buried secrets, punk rock shows and tattoo shops.
Bestselling authors like Chris Holm, Lori Rader-Day, Bill Crider, Laura McHugh, James Ziskin and John Rector along with many more join together to call for an end to the needless violence and a start to a reasoned debate. With a forward by legendary Sara Paretsky, Unloaded Vol. 2 is a book we wish wasn’t needed. But staying silent is no longer an option.
Proceeds go to the non-profit States United To Prevent Gun Violence. (Buy) 16 July
A Taste of Shotgun
by Chris Orlet
(All Due Respect Books)
Nobody likes a shakedown. Especially not Denis Carroll, proprietor of The Brass Lantern, a dive bar in a bleak southern Illinois town. Five years ago Denis gunned down a dirtbag who was attempting to hold up his bar. At least that’s what the cops think.
After the shooting, Denis’ hotheaded younger brother, Vince, insisted on taking the rap. No big deal. He’d plead self-defense. Case closed. What the Carrolls didn’t count on was the cops discovering a huge stash of weed in a back room, locally sourced marijuana the Carrolls peddled “to make ends meet.” Weed supplied by the psychotic Goodwin Brothers, Clay and Randy.
Vince ended up taking the fall for that, too.
With Vince behind bars and Denis promising to keep his nose clean, the Goodwins turn to blackmail to force the Carrolls back into the illegal drug trade. Play along or the Goodwin Brothers (one of whom witnessed the shooting at the bar) will finger Denis as a murderer.
Meanwhile the Goodwins have troubles of their own, specifically their niece, Erica. As a child, Erica witnessed her sister being sexually abused by her Uncle Clay. As a young woman, she saw her fiancé shot down at a local bar by one of the Carrolls. Erica is determined to get revenge on both men. How much better if she can kill two birds with one stone—get rid of her uncle and pin his murder on that murderous bar owner?
In this darkly humorous small-town noir everyone has something to hide and nothing is as it seems. (Buy) 27 July
Pull & Pray
by Angel Luis Colón
(Down & Out Books)
Five years after surviving the most harrowing heist of her life, Fantine Park is lured back to the United States by her aunt. The bait: a lead on the identity of her mother’s killer and a score known as the ‘pension plan’, a piece of software that can literally pay out in perpetuity if they can get their hands on it in time
Working with a team of actual professionals with their own motivations; Fan’s loyalties and beliefs will be tested as nothing is as it seems; especially when one of the members of this crew may have been the last person to see her mother alive.
It’s going to be lies, murder, and gas station hot dogs all the way down as Fan races to get the answers about the day her mother died and maybe, just maybe, the kind of cash that will pull her away from a continued life of crime. (Buy) 30 July
Pinnacle City: A Superhero Noir
by Matt Carter & Fiona JR Titchenell
Pinnacle City is many things to many people. To some it is a glittering metropolis, a symbol of prosperity watched over by the all-star superhero team, the Pinnacle City Guardians. Beyond the glitz and glamour, there is another city, one still feeling the physical and economic damage of the superhero-villain battles of generations past. The lower class, immigrants, criminals, aliens, sorcerers, and non-humans alike call this city home, looking to make a living, which is becoming increasingly difficult as the two sides of the city seem prepared to boil over into a violent conflict.
Private investigator Eddie Enriquez, born with the ability to read the histories of objects by touch, still bears the scars of his time as a youthful minion for a low-level supervillain, followed by stints in prison and the military. Though now trying to live a straight-and-narrow life, he supports a drinking problem and painkiller addiction by using his powers to track down insurance cheats. When a mysterious woman enters his office asking him to investigate the death of prominent non-human rights activist Quentin Julian, a crime the police and heroes are ignoring, he takes the case in the hopes of doing something good.
Superhero Kimberly Kline has just hit it big, graduating from her team of young heroes to the Pinnacle City Guardians with the new codename of Solar Flare. With good looks, powers that include flight, energy manipulation, superhuman strength, durability, and speed, as well as a good family name, the sky is the limit for her. Upbeat, optimistic, and perhaps a little naïve from the upper-crust life she was raised in, she hopes to make her family, and the world, proud by being the greatest superhero she can be . . . but things aren’t always as they seem.
From the minds of Matt Carter and Fiona J. R. Titchenell, Pinnacle City is a pulpy, throwback noir of yesteryear, where two unlikely people from opposite sides of the track must team up to do good in a world full of so much bad. (Buy) 7 August
Boise Longpig Hunting Club
by Nick Kolakowski
(Down & Out Books)
When you want someone found, you call bounty hunter Jake Halligan. He’s smart, tough, and best of all, careful on the job. But none of those skills seem to help him when a shadowy group starts taking his life apart piece by piece.
First Jake comes home to find a dead body in his gun safe. He thinks it’s a warning–and when you drag people back to jail for a living, the list of people who want to send that kind of message is very long indeed. With backup from his sister Frankie, an arms dealer and dapper criminal, Jake plunges into the Idaho underworld, confronting everyone from brutal Aryan assassins to cops who want his whole family in jail.
But as Jake soon discovers, those threats are small-time compared to the group that’s really after him. And nothing–not bounty hunting, not even all his years in Iraq–can prepare him for what’s coming next. Jake’s about to become a player in the most dangerous game ever invented…
Boise Longpig Hunting Club is a wild ride into the dark heart of the American dream, where even the most brutal desires can be fulfilled for a price, and nobody is safe from the rich and powerful. (Buy) 13 August
by J.D. Rhoades
Years ago, the Jakes brothers were found alone, hungry, and freezing, in a trailer where they’d been left by their mother. One found a happy home. The older son never did, but he always dreamed of the day when they would be together again.
Thirteen years later, big brother appears, and he’s determined to reunite the family, even if he has to do it by kidnapping his younger brother. The mother they haven’t seen in years is in New Orleans, and she’s in trouble. Her sons are coming to the rescue, even if one of them is doing it at gunpoint.
But things are rapidly spinning out of control in New Orleans. The Jakes boys, the disgraced former sheriff trying to chase them down, and an ambitious Louisiana deputy investigating the mother are in for far more danger than any of them bargained for. As they’re caught between two sides in a vicious drug war, everyone’s fighting to survive, no one knows who to trust, and it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be left standing at the end.
A story of loss and redemption, of love and betrayal, and above all of how far some will go to be part of a family, FORTUNATE SON will keep you up all night and leave you unable to forget it. (Buy) 14 August
The Line That Held Us
by David Joy
From critically acclaimed author David Joy comes a remarkable novel about the cover-up of an accidental death, and the dark consequences that reverberate through the lives of four people who will never be the same again.
When Darl Moody went hunting after a monster buck he’s chased for years, he never expected he’d accidentally shoot a man digging ginseng. Worse yet, he’s killed a Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and violence. With nowhere to turn, Darl calls on the help of the only man he knows will answer, his best friend, Calvin Hooper. But when Dwayne Brewer comes looking for his missing brother and stumbles onto a blood trail leading straight back to Darl and Calvin, a nightmare of revenge rips apart their world. The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption, where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed. (Buy) 14 August
The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories
by Teresa Solana
(Bitter Lemon Press)
An impressive and very funny collection of stories by Teresa Solana but the fun is very dark indeed. The oddest things happen. Statues decompose and stink out galleries, two old grandmothers are vengeful killers, a prehistoric detective on the verge of becoming the first religious charlatan trails a triple murder that is threatening cave life as the early innocents knew it. The collection also includes a sparkling web of Barcelona stories–connected by two criminal acts–that allows Solana to explore the darker side of different parts of the city and their seedier inhabitants. (Buy) 15 August
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