Incident Report

Incident Report No. 49

Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of June 24th through July 7th with links to news, reviews, short fiction, new books, and upcoming releases.

49_375Small Press Crime Fiction Week in Review

Thanks for returning to the regularly scheduled Incident Report. Last week’s edition, though spurred on by the Laura Ingalls Wilder fiasco, it was more about what we could do as readers to increase diversity within the mystery community. Thin-skinned white people were not fans of the post.

Some things I believe white people can do to support the voices of writers of color are:
– Demand of the publishing companies you like to actively search out and publish writers of color
– Purchase and read books by writers of color.
– Actively promote writers of color.
– Listen to writers of color.

Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of June 24th through July 7th with links to news, reviews, short fiction, new books, and upcoming releases.


Dead Girls- Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice BolinKristen Martin, who is working on a book of essays about grief, death, and life, uses Alice Bolin’s “Dead Girls- Essays on Surviving an American Obsession” (Harper Collins) as a jumping off point in her Literary Hub essay, Why We Love—and Need to Leave Behind—Dead Girl Stories.

Any consumer of true crime knows that men are the problem, but that doesn’t stop us from tuning into each new Dead Girl story as though it presents a fresh mystery. Bolin questions this stance in “The Husband Did It”—an essay whose title acknowledges a truism that has become a trope “true crime fans roll their eyes at,” no matter what the numbers show us: nearly three women are killed by current or former intimate partners each day in the U.S.

But we want mystery, plot twists, a story. We love the Dead Girl, Bolin writes, because “her death is the catalyst for the fun of sleuthing.” And that’s the problem with Dead Girl stories—the way we tell them gives us permission to look away from obvious patterns. It’s not doing us any good to keep rehashing these stories if we refuse to pay attention to the ways our culture is complicit in killing women.

The Syndicate by Clarence Cooper JrDomenic Stansberry, author of “The White Devil” and, more importantly for this article, publisher of Clarence Cooper, Jr.’s “The Syndicate” (Molotov Editions), introduces us to Cooper.

In that brief talk, [Gary] Phillips outlined the essentials of Cooper’s career, and the paradoxes. How Cooper’s first novel, The Scene—a stream of consciousness novel, part crime fiction, part memoir, written in an experimental style evoking William S. Burroughs and Henry Miller—brought Cooper into the literary spotlight for a brief season. How his subsequent fiction, five books written over the course of seven years, between 1960 and 1967, were mostly ignored, relegated to pulp houses publishing out of Chicago. How Cooper, a heroin addict, did much of his writing in jail and died young in New York City. Even so his work influenced black street writers—like Robert Beck (AKA Iceberg Slim) and Donald Goines—subterranean pulp novelists who captured a street culture that critics, black and white, shied away from acknowledging.

Cooper, Phillips explained, was of the same world as Beck and Goines. Then again, he wasn’t.

There was, on one hand, his language-dense, scene-shifting work that blended noir convention with the avant garde, in a style that was at once literary and evoked the rawness of the street.  Then,  on the other side,  there was his narrative-driven work that smelled of the pulps.  On account of this duality, publishers struggled with how to present Cooper’s work to a mainstream audience.

At Kill Zone, James Scott Bell, author of “Your Son is Alive”, writes on the eternal debate on write what you know. There are some quotes from Toni Morrison and then there’s a little bit from Bell which is spot on, “Go outside the camp. Be reckless, be an explorer. Imagine it, then create it. Part of the imagining, of course, involved research.”

What My Sister Knew by Nina Laurin.jpgNina Laurin, author of “Girl Last Seen” and “What My Sister Knew”, visits The Thrill Begins to talk about how the beat the sophomore slump.

In the end, it was three things that saved me (and my book). The first was having an outline. I’ve always been a big fan of outlines. Knowing what happens next helps a lot when I’m struggling to get the words down. The second was having a great editor by my side. There’s nothing better than to have someone who can help you with plot issues that crop up, threatening to paralyze the entire process fifty thousand words in. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re a seasoned publishing pro who really knows what they’re doing!

And finally, the last push I needed to finish the book was… a deadline. At the end of that summer, I was supposed to leave on a long trip where working would be impossible. I had to get my manuscript finished by then, and in that last month I suddenly found myself writing at my old pace. It turned out that instead of hurting my productivity, the time crunch helped it by making me manage my writing time better. Instead of taking it for granted, I had to fight for every hour spent at the keyboard—just like I did back in university.

Man, I love the blog Fragments of Noir. This week the blog features photographer Josef Holfehner. More of Holfehner’s work can be found at his website.


Mark Allen, who writes “hard-as-bullets” like “Warlock #1: Autofire Blitz” and “The Assassin’s Betrayal”, is a big fan of Adam Howe, author of “Gator Bait” and “Tijuana Donkey Showdown”. Allen says of Howe, “Adam Howe is the author I never knew I needed in my life. One minute I had never heard of him, and the next minute I read ‘Gator Bait’ and immediately realized I had been missing a writer who could combine black-as-Beelzebub’s-bunghole humor with unrepentant, in-your-face violence, all spelled out with vivid, high-voltage prose.” Allen sits down with Howe and then things start to get weird.

Dumb-ass characters make dumb-ass decisions, which lead me down the strangest paths and allow the kind of blackly comic scenarios I like to write about. I would hope that readers of my work are smarter than my characters, which allows a sense of schadenfreude. That’s what I write: schadenfreude noir. Also, I’m a recovering addict. Seven years sober this year. My drinking days were nothing like as exciting as the stories I write, but I guess in writing about these lowlife sleazeballs and their doomed schemes, there’s a part of me still vicariously slumming it.

At Jungle Red Writers, Ingrid Thoft, author “Duplicity” and other books, interviews David Joy, author of “Where All The Light Tends To Go”, “The Weight of the World” and “The Line That Held Us”. It’s a wide-ranging interview, but here’s a bit of Joy talking about Noir and writing about Appalachia.

When you come from an area like this, people and place is sort of this inseparable thing. You can’t really separate or discern one from the other. For me, characters just sort of claw their way out of this landscape. So there’s that. But I think this idea of noir is something I hadn’t really thought about early on. I wasn’t coming out of a crime fiction tradition. That’s not the stuff I read. I didn’t grow up reading Elmore Leonard or Jim Thompson. I was coming out of writers like Larry Brown and William Gay and Harry Crews and Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell.

Country Dark by Chris OffuttAt Literary Hub, Chris Offutt writes about his attraction to writing about the people of Appalachia, specifically eastern Kentucky, There’s a bit of history and love for the region, but Offutt strikes out at the prejudices many in the States have of the people in the region.

The ongoing dismissal of Appalachians as “lazy, dangerous, and dumb,” is the same method of denying humanity that has been applied to African Americans, Indigenous Americans, and wave upon wave of immigrant to this country.

Stereotypes function as weapons to shame people, to alienate them from so-called mainstream culture. At the same time, behind every stereotype lurks a complicated archetype, and it is precisely those archetypes I have always strived to examine.

Alan Baxter, author of “Manifest Recall” (Grey Matter Press), stops by Ink Heist to chat about his books, noir, and the unreliable narrator.

Last Year's Man by Paul D BrazillPaul D. Brazill, author of “Last Year’s Man” (All Due Respect Books), talks shop at The Big Thrill with Tim O’Mara. Asked about the brevity of his latest book, Brazill responds:

“Maybe it’s because I usually prefer singles to albums?” he says. “But really, it seemed to be just the right length to tell the tale I wanted to tell. LAST YEAR’S MAN was originally longer, but I sliced off quite a bit. A lot of crime fiction seems to be padded out with middle-class soap opera and I wanted to avoid that.”

Two things I love about that response preferring singles to albums and the fact that so much crime fiction is padded with crap.

Ruth Ware talks about the influences of her new book, “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” (Simon & Schuster), at the blog Reader Dad.

It’s a book that I’ve loved since my teens, but which I returned to a few years ago in my thirties, and re-read with a mounting horror at everything that I had… not exactly missed, because I had understood the plot well enough when I first read it. But at everything I had discounted and made allowances for as a younger woman.

That book was Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and people who know it and love it will probably detect more than a few nods to it in The Death of Mrs Westaway. The Cornish setting is the most obvious one, of course. Du Maurier made Cornwall her own, and modelled Manderley, in Rebecca, closely on her real life house of Menabilly. Trepassen House is not Menabilly – or Manderley. It’s much less grand, and more tumbledown. But I suppose it is a little like what Manderley might have become, if Maxim had left it to rot, in the tender hands of Mrs Danvers.

sam wiebeSam Wiebe, author of “Cut You Down” (Quercus), chats with Dietrich Kalteis about writing and Vancouver. But Sam’s been busier than that as he has an interesting essay at Dana King’s blog about the issues with being a mid-career writer.

The middle is a dangerous place to be, career-wise. Your work is in market competition with books written for no other reason than to sell. On the other hand, as a genre writer, you’re shut out of a lot of the protections and awards that gild the careers of “literary” writers. You have to make your own opportunities, but at the same time, you’re writing something you care about. Any business success serves only to sustain a writing career so you can write more things you care about with fewer distractions.

The Business of Being a Writer by Jane FriedmanJane Friedman, author of “The Business of Being a Writer” (University of Chicago Press), has two articles worth your time, both have some depth to them. The first is How to Evaluate Small Press Publishers.

Small publishers often have little or nothing in common with each other; each has unique contracts, distribution power, and quality, not to mention title count and revenue. That said, small presses can be alike in that they take pride in their status (and often rightly so) and call themselves “independent publishers,” to emphasize their creativity or more personal approach, and to differentiate themselves from corporately owned behemoths.

The problem for the writer is that some small presses take a sizable chunk of royalties and rights, yet offer little value in return. The intent is seldom malicious; it’s rather that their ignorance of standard (or ethical) business practices in publishing may lead them to offer contracts and deals that mimic what they see far more established players using.

The second article, Author Income Surveys Are Misleading and Flawed, is in response to the yearly-crap article about authors’ wages.

Before I continue with this epic-length post, here’s the short version: I don’t trust these surveys’ results and I question their usefulness in improving the fortunes of writers. Too often it feels like promotion of a self-interested narrative from writers’ organizations, with the outcome boring and predictable: There is media coverage that claims writers’ incomes are plummeting, a few big-name authors come out and try to shame publishers or even society for not valuing writers properly, debate ensues, then everyone gets back to work—until a new study emerges.

Low Down Dirty edited by Mysti BerrySome other articles of interest: an excerpt of The Sewanee Review interview with Megan Abbott, a comparison of the book and film, “Out of Sight”; an interview in the New York Times with one of my favorite writers of all time, Anne Tyler; also from the Times a look at the changing face of the romance genre (maybe crime fiction should take notice); the CEO of Barnes & Noble has been fired; Will Viharo interviews Bethany Maines; and Mysti Berry stops by The Rap Sheet to talk about the new the anthology “Low Down Dirty Vote” (Berry Content Corporation).

Thanks to James C. Buckley for pointing me in the direction of this Guardian article, Top 10 books about gangsters. As Buckley tweeted to me, “For once this isn’t actually that bad!”

Book Reviews

travellin-shoes-by-v-m-burns.jpgAt Lesa’s Book Critiques, V.M. Burns’s “Travellin’ Shoes” (Camel Press) is reviewed. “Travellin’ Shoes” is the first in Burns’s R.J. Franklin series.

Travellin’ Shoes combines the best of a cozy mystery with a police procedural. It has a wonderful cast of spirited characters. RJ and Mama B are standouts. She offers the wisdom, neighborhood gossip, and sometimes, the humor in the book. There are even a few recipes. But, there’s also diligent work on the behalf of RJ and Harley, plodding work that needs to be done. And, they’re dealing with other cases at the same time. As I said, I liked the first in Burns’ other series. I loved this one.

sunk_costs_preston_langOver at Col’s Criminal Library, Colman Kean reviews Preston Lang’s “Sunk Cost” (All Due Respect Books).

Not overly long – less than 200 pages of prose – just about perfect length for me. A great main character, Dan with not much of a back story,  just enough to show us he’s been around the block a couple of times. A satisfying resolution – it couldn’t really have ended any better in my opinion.

Preston Lang writes the kind of books that I want to read. All Due Respect publishes the kind of books I want to read. Hats off to both.

Kean also picked “Sunk Cost” as his book of the month for June 2018.

Suburban Dick by CS DeWildtAt Kevin’s Corner, Kevin Tipple reviews C.S. DeWildt’s “Suburban Dick” (Down & Out Books) which is about “a private detective who is living the classic private detective lifestyle. Dead broke, recently divorced and very unhappy . . . ”

Crime fiction with a hint of noir and good old fashioned mystery with the occasional flash of dark humor, “Suburban Dick: A Novel” is a novel is a good one and well worth your time.

Turn on the Heat by Erle Stanley GardnerBen Lelievre reviews books, movies and music at his site Dead End Follies though of late, and he warned us, his reviews have skewed more towards music and movies. So I am always pleased when the reviews a book or two. This past week he has reviewed two by Erle Stanley Gardner, most famously known for his creation of Perry Mason, “The Knife Slipped” and “Turn on the Heat,” both published by Hard Case Crime. From his review of “Turn on the Heat,” Leliever writes:

The Cool & Lam novels are competent detective mysteries, but they’re not exactly exciting. Think of them like episodes of CSI Miami: they follow a very rigid format and every one of them will give you more or less the same level of excitement, but you read/watch them for the characters, who give you a reliable form of excitement. You know what you’re going to get with them.

A Cut-Like Wound by Anita NairSome other book reviews that might be of interest to you, Kevin Tipple reviews the first issue of Down & Out Magazine, Vicki Weisfield at Crime Fiction Lover reviews Michael Pool’s “Texas Two Step” (Down & Out Books); and International Noir Fiction reviews Anita Nair’s “A Cut-Like Wound” (Bitter Lemon Press). Over at Black Guys Do Read, Richard Vialet’s been reading Jason Aaron’s “Scalped”, a legendary comic that has always been on the edge of my TBR. Vialet has reviews of the first two books.

Short Stories

Here is a list of short stories I particularly liked.

Decision by Michael Bracken (Flash Bang Mysteries)

Lost and Found by Kristie Claxton (Shotgun Honey)

Viking Funeral by Nick Kolakowski (Tough)

Hellbenders by Chris McGinley (Retreats From Oblivion)

Downstairs Without Oscar by Ernest Gordon Taulbee (The Molotov Cocktail)

New Releases

Pulp Modern
edited by Alec Cizak
(Uncle B. Publications)

Short fiction by

Cynthia Ward
Michael Bracken
Thomas Dade
Chris McGinley
Scotch Rutherford
J.A. Prentice
Stephen D. Rogers
Doug Lane
John Kojak

Art work by Richard Krauss. (Buy)

Queen of Diamonds by Frank Zafiro and Jim WilskyQueen of Diamonds
by Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky
(Down & Out Books)
When Ania Kozak hits Vegas, she’s only looking for a place to relax and lay low with her stolen cash and diamonds. But Sin City has other plans for “Annie.”

Cord Needham is a poker circuit champion with an eye for the ladies and a dark secret in his past. Casey Brunnell is a former baseball player fighting the cards and running up debts to a local mobster. When Annie decides to play a dangerous game with both of them, the stakes go through the roof. Everyone scrambles to beat the odds and get out of town with the money…and their lives.


“Queen of Diamonds is the second collaboration between Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky and it’s a partnership that runs like a well-oiled machine…I’ve read a lot of books set in Las Vegas, but there are very few I have enjoyed more.” —Chris Leek, independent reviewer

“They are able to capture that odd mixture of psychology, math skills and pure luck that can help people excel at Texas Hold ’Em in a way that anyone could understand. They show a strong understanding of the game and why some people treat gambling for money like a career…[the authors] are able to keep readers guessing right up until the last few chapters when their plot threads finally all come together. They manage to both frustrate some expectations readers may have and bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.” —Brian Triplett, independent reviewer (Buy)

Rip Current by Amanda JamesRip Current
by Amanda James
(Bloodhound Books)
DI Bryony Marshall has been on the tail of Kenny Ransom for two years. He’s involved in prostitution and trafficking, but there’s never been any real proof. To complicate matters further, Bryony’s best friend from childhood is his daughter Imogen.

Bryony worries about admitting the fact that she is trying to put Imogen’s dad away, but unexpectedly, Imogen turns on her father and helps the police. Kenny finds out and swears he’ll get his revenge.

Sick of being in the police force, Bryony visits her mother in Cornwall and considers starting a new life.

While in Cornwall, Bryony saves the life of a man caught up in a rip current in the sea.

But who is this stranger? And is Kenny really bent on revenge?

Rip Current explores the relationships between families and friends and asks who can you ever really trust. (Buy)

Where the Hurt Is by Chris KelseyWhere the Hurt Is
by Chris Kelsey
(Black Rose Writing)
It’s an unseasonably hot April night in 1965. The social revolutions rocking America have mostly bypassed Burr, a tiny rural community in western Oklahoma. Like much of the state, Burr remains as it’s always been: Religious. Conservative. And 100% white. When an unknown young African-American woman is found murdered on the railroad tracks outside town, most of Burr would rather look the other way. The town’s police chief, troubled local hero and ex-Marine Emmett Hardy, doesn’t have that luxury. A lover of books and jazz in the land of football and country & western, Emmett is an outsider in a place he knows like the back of his hand. In his search for the killer, he’s forced to slice through layers of hate and hypocrisy to confront the ethical rot at the town’s core, while being haunted by the vision of a life and love that might have been. (Buy)

Burning Secrets by Ruth SuttonBurning Secrets
by Ruth Sutton
(Fahrenheit Press)

It’s the spring of 2001 and Foot & Mouth disease is raging across Cumbria.

Twelve-year-old Helen Heslop is forced to leave her family farm and move in with relatives in a nearby town because the strict quarantine means she can’t travel back and forth to school in case she inadvertently helps spread the disease.

As the authorities and the local farming communities try desperately to contain the outbreak, tensions run high and everyone’s emotions are close to the surface.

And then Helen disappears.

The police search expands all over the northwest coast where farms are barricaded and farming families have been plunged into chaos – not least the Hislop family, where potentially explosive fault lines are exposed.

Under the strain tensions build inside the police team too, where local DC Maureen Pritchard is caught between old school DI Bell and new broom DS Anna Penrose.

Will Helen survive? And can life for the Heslop family ever be the same, once burning secrets are discovered and old scores settled?

“During the awful Foot & Mouth emergency of 2001 many individual lives were changed forever. Burning Secret is about some of those. At the heart of the book are innocents, threatened by events they could neither prevent nor control, and those who try to protect them…” (Buy)

by John Way Comunale
(Grindhouse Press)
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)

The Human Alchemy
by Michael Griffin
(Word Horde)
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)

12 Gauge by Dustin LaValley12 Gauge
by Dustin LaValley
(Sinister Grin Press)
12 Gauge: Songs from A Street Sweeper includes three white-knuckled novellas.


A prison escapee leads law enforcement on a chase through the Adirondack Mountains, where they encounter a reclusive elderly man with a dark secret.


An ultra-violent satirical commentary on societal norms, cliques, and obedience.

The Deceived

A criminal pair invade the home of the wrong man on the wrong day.

“Spinner is a thriller, a horror story, and an adventure narrative. It’s also a lot of fast, bloody, violent fun.” –Gabino Iglesias, Horror Talk

“LaValley creates a non-stop, adrenaline ride of violence and mayhem, in a setting Americans know all so well. H/armed is a bloody, relentless and visceral assault on the senses. Wickedly entertaining.” –Paul Hough, writer/director of The Human Race

“The Deceived is equal parts thrilling, creepy, and downright brutal. A wonderful tale.” –Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase (Buy)

travellin-shoes-by-v-m-burnsTravellin’ Shoes
by V.M. Burns
(Camel Press)
A house fire is extinguished to reveal the body of a choir director. The smell of gasoline points to murder.

Thomas Warrendale was employed by First Baptist Church, where Detective RJ Franklin Jr. is a parishioner. Recovering from a car accident, RJ is on leave from the police force in St. Joseph, Indiana, when this puzzling case calls him back. His insider’s knowledge makes him the obvious choice to lead the investigation.

The congregation doubled after Warrendale revamped the music to appeal to a more youthful crowd. RJ’s godmother, Mama B, gives the detective an earful about the choir director’s non-musical activities. Warrendale was also an accountant and a “fancy pants” seducer. His clients believe the man was stealing from them. Warrendale turns out to be an alias; his real name was Tyrone Warren, once a highly paid CPA in Cleveland. Was Warren in hiding? From his stone-faced wife? A disgruntled client? Now someone is breaking in to the dead choir director’s office and the homes of his former clients. Believing the vandal to be the killer, RJ is particularly concerned about the safety of one client, the striking owner of two hair salons.

Book 1 in the RJ Franklin Mystery series. Soul food recipes included. (Buy)

Never Day by Carlton Mellick IIINever Day
by Carlton Mellick III
(Eraserhead Press)
For almost 20 years, Carlton Mellick III has been writing some of the strangest and most compelling novels the bizarro fiction genre has to offer. Described as one of the top 40 science-fiction writers under the age of 40 by The Guardian and “one of the most original novelists working today” by extreme horror legend Edward Lee. In his 57th book, Neverday, Mellick has created a dystopian horror tribute to time loop stories in the tradition of Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day.

Karl Lybeck has been repeating the same day over and over again, in a constant loop, for what feels like a thousand years. He’s been stuck in this endless cycle for so long that he doesn’t remember what his life was like before time stopped moving forward. He doesn’t remember his parents’ faces or what he used to do for a living. He doesn’t remember which president is currently in office or what city he lives in. The only reason he remembers his own name is because it’s printed on his Oregon State driver’s license.

He thought he was the only person trapped in this eternal hell until a woman named January appears in his backyard one morning, fleeing armed pursuers who claim to be with the police. She doesn’t know why today is exactly the same as yesterday. She doesn’t realize she’s trapped in the same loop that Karl’s been stuck within for so many centuries.

But it turns out that Karl and January aren’t alone. In fact, the majority of the population has been repeating the same day just as they have been. While Karl was hiding isolated in his suburban home, he didn’t realize that a new world was being built just outside of his door. Society has adapted to repeating the same day over and over again. New laws have been implemented. A new memory-based currency has been put into place.

Karl and January find themselves in a therapy group with other people who are having a difficult time dealing with their situation—from hospital patients with illnesses that will never be cured to parents who will never see their children grow up. But there’s something not quite right about those in charge of the new repeating government. They don’t understand why going into the neverday—that time period that only exists if you stay awake all night to avoid repetition—is considered the worst possible crime that anyone can commit.

With the help of others who share their suspicions that something is not quite right with their situation, Karl and January explore the neverday in search of answers. But what they discover could destroy the very fabric of their new society forever. (Buy)

Triple Axe
by Scott Cole
(Grindhouse Press)
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)

Dark Rhapsody by Helaine MarioDark Rhapsody
by Helaine Mario
(Oceanview Publishing)
In 1945, an Austrian girl discovers a priceless Nazi treasure near a remote alpine lake and sets in motion a decades-old secret that will change lives for generations to come.

Many years later, classical pianist Maggie O’Shea is preparing her return to the world of music. Instead, a nightmare of a haunting rhapsody and hundreds of roses from a deranged stalker propel her into a world of terror. Forces drive her to revisit the mystery of her mother’s death, her father’s startling disappearance, and a terrible secret from World War II. Maggie finds herself on a collision course with a brutal, disfigured killer who threatens those she holds dear—an aging pianist with a long-buried secret, a haunted cellist, a charismatic Maestro, and the crusty retired colonel she has come to love.

A story of loss, intrigue, vengeance, courage, and love. (Buy)

Low Down Dirty edited by Mysti BerryLow Down Dirty
edited by Mysti Berry
(Berry Content Corporation)
This anthology of short crime fiction raises funds to help the ACLU fight voter suppression. Authors: Kris Calvin, Alison Catharine, Ray Daniel, David Hagerty, Mariah Klein, Derek Marsh, Jr., Catriona McPherson, Camille Minichino, Ann Parker, Travis Richardson, and James W. Ziskin.

Stories are set from Edinburgh to the San Francisco Bay Area and points in between. Some are ripped from 21st-century headlines, others explore the challenges of women voting for the first time in Wyoming during the 19th century.

Each writer has challenged themselves to experiment with form, point of view, or voice. Low Down Dirty Vote is a fabulous collection of stories from award-winning writers and brand new voices. Sales receipts go to the ACLU Foundation to help fight voter suppression.

This volume features a forward by Amy A. Miller, Legal Director of ACLU Nebraska, and is edited by Mysti Berry. (Buy)

Relentless by Mike McCraryUnrelentless
by Mike McCrary

He had the time of his life. Then it turned into a nightmare.

Davis Briggs is a kind-hearted family man who dreams of building a better life for his wife and two beautiful daughters. With his family’s future at stake, Davis travels to LA to promote a new business. While he tries to unwind at the hotel bar, a slick, charming stranger asks Davis one simple question: “Are you ready to have the time of your life?”

Davis wakes up the next morning with no memory of what happened the night before. Now, caught in the stranger’s web, Davis is trapped in a race against time. If he succeeds, he stands to gain everything. If he fails, Davis will lose it all. It will take all Davis has to break free…even if it means doing the unthinkable.

McCrary’s taut, fast-paced RELENTLESS is a gripping thrill ride that explores the darkness hiding in the cracks of society and the lengths people will go to when everything is on the line. (Buy)

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)

The Tainted Vintage by Clare BlanchardThe Tainted Vintage
by Clare Blanchard
(Fahrenheit Press)

In the small Czech town of Vinice the mayor has been found dead in his wine cellar.

Detectives Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky are called to the scene and soon realise that despite appearances, Mayor Slansky’s death was most definitely not from natural causes.

Almost immediately, the close-knit community closes ranks to try and brush the unexplained death under the carpet with the minimum of fuss.

Dvorska & Dambersky are drawn deeper and deeper into secrets that many hoped would remain buried forever and they’re forced into pursuing an investigation where their own lives are put in danger.

The Tainted Vintage is the first book in a wonderful new series set in and around The Czech Republic, an area rich in history, literature and culture that still remains largely unexplored by contemporary crime fiction fans.

“Readers are going to have to hang on because they are going to be taken on a twisted ride that connects atrocities of history with horrific dealings in the present…”

“Set in the prestigious wine growing district of the Czech Republic, The Tainted Vintage delves into the realms of both the Nazi occupation and the Communist regime, giving the reader a spine chilling insight into best forgotten history…”

“The plot twists were truly surprising, and I can’t say I guessed at all, who did it or why until it was explicitly laid out in the big reveal at the end…”

“A very good crime read, perfect for fans of Forbrydelsen or Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano…”

“Absolutely brilliant. I was hooked from the very beginning. I couldn’t put it down…” (Buy)

Upcoming Releases

Break Glass by Alec CizakBreaking Glass
by Alec Cizak
(ABC Group Documentation)
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 … (Buy) July

Potters Field
by Rob Hart
(Polis Books)
“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

Eat the Rich by Renee MillerEat the Rich
by Renee Miller
(Hindred Souls Press)
When Ed Anderson discards his life to become a homeless person, he has no idea of the shit storm about to happen. Almost overnight, the city’s homeless population spikes.

So does the murder rate.

Ed learns that aliens posing as homeless people are eating the city’s wealthiest residents. he tries to warn the police, but they think he’s crazy.

The situation is worse than Ed describes, though.

He’s right about the aliens. They’re here to free humans from wealth and poverty. The flesh of the rich is just a tasty reward for their hard work. And if humans refuse to embrace the utopia imagined for them, there is a Plan B:

KILL EVERYONE. (Buy) 13 July

Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery
by Andrew Shaffer
(Quirk Books)
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

Eviserator by Farah Rose SmithEviserator
by Farah Rose Smith
(New Bizarro Author Series)
Vex Valis—doctor. Vex Valis—rocker. Vex Valis—iconoclast. You would think Vex Valis has it all but what Vex has is a secret that rots away at her from her very core. Vex is infected with Gut Ghouls and will do anything to be rid of them, even if it means consorting with subterranean worms or blending science and the occult in dangerous and unsavory ways. You may envy Vex’s jet-setting Dark Wave scientist lifestyle but you won’t when you see the trials incurred when she catches the attention of a being that rends people and worlds alike, the scrutiny of…The Eviscerator. (Buy) 15 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

Go Go Gato by Max EverhartGo Go Gato
by Max Everhart
(Down & Out Books)
When Almario “Go Go” Gato, a handsome young Cuban baseball player, goes missing mid-season, his agent Veronica Craven hires a private investigator to track down her best client. No police. No press. Enter Eli Sharpe, an Asheville, North Carolina-based ex-ballplayer turned private detective who specializes in investigating professional athletes.

Eli begins by questioning Maria Gato, Almario’s roommate and fraternal twin. Maria watched while both her parents drowned on the boat ride from Cuba to America, so she is naturally desperate to get her only brother back. She tells Eli a secret: Almario may have a problem with drugs and alcohol.

Eli tracks down Almario’s supposed girlfriend, a rich sorority girl, but is soon led to another woman in his life, Sheri Stuckey, his cocaine supplier and fiancée who works in tandem with a gay bartender named Dantonio Rushing. Stuckey, a drug abuser and single mother, claims Almario split because she wanted the two of them to check into rehab. But Rushing, dazzled by Almario’s boyish good looks, tells a different tale: Almario has taken out a $500,000 life insurance policy on himself and named Stuckey as the primary beneficiary.

With the help of his mentor—a former homicide detective—and five ex fiancées who still care about him, Eli follows Go Go’s trail, determined to locate the elusive ballplayer before one of the nasty people in his life—or his own bad habits—do him in. (Buy) 16 July

Understudy for Death by Charles WillefordUnderstudy for Death
by Charles Willeford
(Titan Books)
Charles Willeford’s legendary lost novel, unavailable since its original publication in 1961.

Why would a happily married Florida housewife pick up her husband’s .22 caliber Colt Woodsman semi-automatic pistol and use it to kill her two young children and herself? Cynical newspaper reporter Richard Hudson is assigned to find out – and the assignment will send him down a road of self-discovery in this incisive, no-holds-barred portrait of American marriage in the Mad Men era.

On the 30th anniversary of the death of the masterful novelist the Atlantic Monthly called the “father of Miami crime fiction,” Hard Case Crime is proud to present Charles Willeford’s legendary lost novel, unavailable since its original publication by a disreputable paperback house in 1961. One of Willeford’s rarest titles (copies of the original edition sell for hundreds of dollars), Understudy for Death still has the power to disturb, half a century after its debut. (Buy) 17 July

Flight of the Fox by Gray BasnightFlight of the Fox
by Gray Basnight
(Down & Out Books)
An innocent math professor runs for his life as teams of hitmen try to prevent publication of their government’s dark history.

College professor Sam Teagarden stumbles upon a decades-old government cover-up when an encoded document mysteriously lands in his in-box, followed by a cluster of mini-drones programmed to kill him.

That begins a terrifying flight from upstate New York, to Washington, to Key West as Teagarden must outfox teams of hitmen equipped with highly sophisticated technology. While a fugitive, he races to decode the journal, only to realize the dreadful truth—it’s the reason he’s being hunted because it details criminal secrets committed by the U.S. in the 20th Century.

If he survives and publishes the decoded diary, he’ll be a heroic whistle blower. But there is no guarantee. He may also end up dead.


“Flight of the Fox is an explosively paranoid thriller that pays homage to classics of the genre. Basnight delivers nonstop action and an everyman hero to root for.” —Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author

“Basnight’s novel does double duty. It’s both a fast-paced and furious thriller and a thought provoking commentary on a government gone wild. Read it.” —Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break

“Gray Basnight has written a clever, inventive, gripping, suspenseful tale that’ll have you up nights until you reach the final page. Skillfully weaving fact with fiction, Flight of the Fox taps into our worst nightmares about the potential excesses of power.” —Charles Salzberg, author of the award-nominated Henry Swann mysteries and Second Story Man

“Flight of the Fox is a quick-paced story that puts you in the passenger seat of a thrilling adventure featuring, cyber and techno villains, and a fight for justice. Great action thriller!” —Jerri Williams, retired FBI agent and author of Pay To Play (Buy) 23 July

A Taste of Shotgun
by Chris 
(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) 20 July

the-annotated-big-sleepThe Annotated Big Sleep
edited by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, Anthony Rizzuto
(Vintage Crime)
The first fully annotated edition of Raymond Chandler’s 1939 classic The Big Sleep features hundreds of illuminating notes and images alongside the full text of the novel and is an essential addition to any crime fiction fan’s library.

A masterpiece of noir, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep helped to define a genre. Today it remains one of the most celebrated and stylish novels of the twentieth century. This comprehensive, annotated edition offers a fascinating look behind the scenes of the novel, bringing the gritty and seductive world of Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe to life. The Annotated Big Sleep solidifies the novel’s position as one of the great works of American fiction and will surprise and enthrall Chandler’s biggest fans.

-Personal letters and source texts
-The historical context of Chandler’s Los Angeles, including maps and images
-Film stills and art from the early pulps
-An analysis of class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity in the novel (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

Small Time Crimes by Paul D BrazillSmall Time Crimes
by Paul D. Brazill
(Near to the Knuckle)
Hit-men, con men, jewel thieves, career criminals, killers, crooks and cannibals. They all congregate between the pages of Paul D. Brazill’s Small Time Crimes – a brutal and blackly comic collection of short stories and flash fiction that views the world at its most askew. (Buy) 31 July

Lost Films edited by Max Booth III and Lori MichelleLost Films
edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle
(Perpetual Motion Machine)
From the editors of Lost Signals comes the new volume in technological horror. Nineteen authors, both respected and new to the genre, team up to deliver a collection of terrifying, eclectic stories guaranteed to unsettle its readers. In Lost Films, a deranged group of lunatics hold an annual film festival, the lost series finale of The Simpsons corrupts a young boy’s sanity, and a VCR threatens to destroy reality. All of that and much more, with fiction from Brian Evenson, Gemma Files, Kelby Losack, Bob Pastorella, Brian Asman, Leigh Harlen, Dustin Katz, Andrew Novak, Betty Rocksteady, John C. Foster, Ashlee Scheuerman, Eugenia M. Triantafyllou, Kev Harrison, Thomas Joyce, Jessica McHugh, Kristi DeMeester, Izzy Lee, Chad Stroup, and David James Keaton. (Buy) August

God's Mean Older Brother by G Arthur BrownGod’s Mean Older Brother
by G. Arthur Brown
(Eraserhead Press)
It’s The Hangover meets The Book of Revelation in one of the funniest bizarro fiction novels of the year.

God, a single father, is forced to move back home with his parents. He really just wants to focus on writing his indie rock zine and escape the responsibility of being the Supreme Being, which can be a real drag. He’s also got a mean older brother who never left home and never stopped tormenting God or humanity by interfering in events throughout history. Now, God finds out the bastard’s built himself a time machine. As visions of an apocalyptic future come to God’s attention, he devises a foolproof plan to stop his mean older brother from destroying the world… then gets so drunk he forgets what the plan is.

“Whether he’s scribbling on napkins, writing online, or penning fiction, G. Arthur Brown is interested in taking the world we think we know, cracking it open, slathering it with weirdness, and twisting it into odd shapes–which, surprisingly, resemble the world more accurately than the world we wish we had. Brown’s a prime example of how the weird and the bizarre can provide an active and irreverent critique of the real. This is fiction that’s fun to read and yet deeply resonant.” – Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses (Buy) 1 August

Night Driver by Marcelle PerksNight Driver
by Marcelle Perks
(Urbane Publications)
Heavily pregnant Frannie is facing a crisis. An English woman living in Germany, her marriage is failing, her language skills are hopeless, and she feels like a fish out of water in a foreign country.

In a positive effort to tackle her problems she learns to drive so she can cope when her baby is born and build a sense of independence. After passing her driving test she drives in the early hours of the morning to gain experience on the eerily empty streets.

But when she encounters a Polish motorcyclist looking for his missing sister, she becomes sucked into a terrifying world of shady nightclubs, autobahn prostitutes and organ trafficking. And when she crosses serial-killing truck driver Stigelegger, there’s no turning back.

A most unlikely heroine, this nervous Night Driver must stay one step ahead of her pursuer on the darkest of roads in order to survive. (Buy) 2 August

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

The Bouncer by David GordonThe Bouncer
by David Gordon
(Mysterious Press)

In David Gordon’s diabolically imaginative new thriller, The Bouncer, nothing and no one is as expected―from a vial of yellow fragrance to a gangster who moonlights in women’s clothes.

Joe Brody is just your average Dostoevsky-reading, Harvard-expelled strip club bouncer who has a highly classified military history and whose best friend from Catholic school happens to be head mafioso Gio Caprisi. FBI agent Donna Zamora, the best shot in her class at Quantico, is a single mother stuck at a desk manning the hotline. Their storylines intersect over a tip from a cokehead that leads to a crackdown on Gio’s strip joint in Queens and Joe’s arrest―just one piece of a city-wide sweep aimed at flushing out anyone who might have a lead on the various terrorists whose photos are hanging on the wall under Most Wanted. Outside the jailhouse, the Fed and the bouncer lock eyes, as Gordon launches them both headlong into a nonstop plot that goes from back-road gun show intervention to high-stakes perfume heist and manages to touch everyone from the CIA to the Flushing Triads. Beneath it all lurks a sinister criminal mastermind whose manipulations could cause chaos on a massively violent scale.

For readers who like a heavy dose of fun with their murder, this is crime fiction at its freshest, from a virtuoso of the “darkly comic, stylish literary thriller” (Associated Press). (Buy) 7 August

Baghdad Noir by Samuel ShimonBaghdad Noir
edited by Samuel Shimon
(Akashic Books)

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 location within the geographic area of the book. One of the world’s most war-torn cities is portrayed though a noir lens in this chilling story collection.

Brand-new stories by: Muhsin al-Ramli, Nassif Falak, Hadia Said, Ahmed Saadawi, Salima Salih, Roy Scranton, Hayet Raies, Mohammed Alwan Jabr, Dheya al-Khalidi, Hussain al-Mozany, Sinan Antoon, Salar Abdoh, Ali Bader, and Layla Qasrany.

From “I Killed Her Because I Loved Her” by contributor Muhsin al-Ramli:

The neighborhood, timeless with its narrow, smelly lanes, seemed to have been forgotten since it came into being with the foundation of Baghdad in Abbasid times. The streets were pocked with potholes, noisy with the clamor of children playing and the clatter of peddlers’ carts. On the pavement there were piles of putrid, smoldering garbage: the smoke mixed with the smell of spices, grilled meat, and other foods cooking. The houses were crammed with people and were built of old bricks and planks of wood. If they hadn’t been leaning on each other, the only reason they didn’t collapse was that there wasn’t enough space on the ground between them.

From “Post-Traumatic Stress Reality in Qadisiya” by contributor Hadia Said:

What I’m telling you is that Baghdad is coming back. Yes. We’ve resumed the necessary insanity. Yes, yes, by God. We removed our suits and stripped to T-shirts and shorts–just like the old days. Exactly like the old days.

From “Getting to Abu Nuwas Street” by contributor Dheya al-Khalidi:

Baghdad’s streets are desolate after midnight. The dark gathers in front of shops and alleyways. Wooden stalls for selling produce are laid down and intertwined like a broken-down train at a station. I’d always watch the cats chase each other, hiss and fight by the butcher’s shop. But odd there weren’t any stray dogs around, since I used to hear them bark in the capital every day. Maybe they sensed something grave that night, so they were hiding, putting off the hunt for another time. (Buy) 7 August

Marrakech Noir edited by Yassin AdanMarrakech Noir
edited by Yassin Adan
(Akashic Books)

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 location within the geographic area of the book. Northern Africa finally enters the Noir Series arena with a finely crafted volume of dark stories, all translated from Arabic and French.

Brand-new stories by: Fatiha Morchid, Fouad Laroui, Taha Adnan, Mohamed Zouhair, Lahcen Bakour, Mahi Binebine, Halima Zine El Abidine, Hanane Derkaoui, Allal Bourqia, My Seddik Rabbaj, Abdelkader Benali, Mohamed Nedali, Mohamed Achaari, Karima Nadir, and Yassin Adnan.

From the introduction by Yassin Adnan:

Only palm trees remember that remote dark past, when highwaymen lay in wait behind their trunks for passing caravans…According to some stories, this is where the city’s name originated. Over the centuries the name has lost much of its caution and blackness…Moroccans today call Marrakech “The Joyful City,” or simply “The Joyful.” For the city is pledged to joy. The seekers of happiness and soirées head for it. Its nights are well lit and its days are bright. The city’s lovers are ready to read every type of story about it except those garbed in black. Even the city’s leading authors, the storytellers of Jamaa al-Fana, have always avoided in their fascinating halqas dark tales and stories…

In all their variety these stories remain rooted in the Moroccan soil. Marrakech, the ancient Moroccan city, the country’s capital of tourism, the city of joy and sadness, the city of simple life, the city linked to the most international capitals through daily flights from its international airport, the city of the new European community, a winter resort for French retirees, and a refuge for immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, the city of red nights and sex tourism, the city of the new generation of crimes… (Buy) 7 August

Death in Shangri-La by Yigal ZurDeath in Shangri-La
by Yigal Zur
(Oceanview Publishing)

Ex­­–Israeli operative turned private investigator, Dotan Naor—to settle a bet—agrees to locate the missing son of former acquaintance, now ruthless Israeli arms merchant, Willy Mizrachi. Willy, who does not hesitate to sell killing machines to the most heinous players in the world, is desperate to find his only son, Itiel, who has headed to an ashram in the Himalayas.

The Himalayas are also host to groups of young Israelis who have completed their mandatory military service—a sort of rite of passage. Now, those innocent kids are being hunted down by violent terrorists.

India and the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan is familiar territory to Dotan, as he searches for Itiel and for the source of these heinous attacks on Israeli youth.

Unwilling to leave this quest in the hands of Dotan, Willy also travels to India, where he is beheaded in Delhi, triggering international repercussions capable of ripping the world apart at one of its most dangerous flashpoints.

Nothing is as it seems in this region of the world. Betrayal reigns everywhere.

But love, in its purest form, does manage to shine through in this story of brutal international corruption (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

Fortunate Son
by J.D. Rhoades
(Polis Books)
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

Sort 'Em Out Later by Jim WilskySort ‘Em Out Later
by Jim Wilsky
(Down & Out Books)
Malefactors is defined as “those who commit an offense against the law”, or more simply put, “one who does ill toward another”. This collection of short stories from Jim Wilsky is chock full of them. Tales that are all different, yet all the same.

The locales and characters range from rural to urban. Office buildings, swamps, wealthy estates and corn fields are some of the places. The people range from folks with money to flat broke, from those who have a lot on the line to those who have nothing to lose, old and young alike. There are stone cold killers to good guys and those in between. Those walking on that shaky bridge, that thin tightrope that connects good and evil.

The stories all share the same common ingredients though. Plots that are brutal, chaotic, desperate, vengeful and violent. These pages paint the rage and burning fire that dwells within almost everyone but only surface and re-erupt in some.

From guns, to knives, to swords and bare hands, this collection will push all the right buttons for crime fiction readers. These specially selected stories touch every base. So, buckle up and read on. (Buy) 27 August

In Loco Parentis by Nigel BirdIn Loco Parentis
by Nigel Bird
(All Due Respect Books)

Joe Campion is the kind of teacher any child would want for their class. He’s also the kind of teacher who never turns down a drink, a smoke or a lay.

When Joe finds out some of his students are suffering abuse, he doesn’t trust the system to take care of it. His impulsive nature, dedication to his pupils and love of women lead him on a long, strange and bloody trip.


“In Loco Parentis is terrific, start to finish.” —Charlie Stella, author of Tommy Red

“Beautiful, painful and excruciatingly brilliant writing.” —McDroll, crime fiction author

“A unique voice that sets the writing head and shoulders above and apart.” —Anonymous-9, author of Hard Bite and Bite Harder

“The writing is beautiful and spare and by the end I felt a cathartic relief. This story is a roller coaster ride of emotion, but a ride well worth taking.” —Mike Miner, author of Hurt Hawks (Buy) 27 August

The Cold Summer by Gianrico CarofiglioThe Cold Summer
by Gianrico Carofiglio
(Bitter Lemon Press)

The summer of 1992 had been exceptionally cold in southern Italy. But that’s not the reason why it is still remembered. On May 23, 1992, a roadside explosion killed the Palermo judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three police officers. A few weeks later judge Paolo Borsellino and five police officers were killed in the center of Palermo. These anti-mafia judges became heroes but the violence spread to the region of Bari in Puglia, where we meet a new, memorable character, Maresciallo Pietro Fenoglio, an officer of the Italian Carabinieri. Fenoglio, recently abandoned by his wife, must simultaneously deal with his personal crisis and the new gang wars raging around Bari. The police are stymied until a gang member, accused of killing a child, decides to collaborate, revealing the inner workings and the rules governing organised crime in the area. The story is narrated through the actual testimony of the informant, a trope reminiscent of verbatim theatre which Carofiglio, an ex-anti-mafia judge himself, uses to great effect. The gangs are stopped but the mystery of the boy’s murder must still be solved, leading Fenoglio into a world of deep moral ambiguity, where the prosecutors are hard to distinguish from the prosecuted. (Buy) 4 September

Black Diamond Fall by Joseph OlshanBlack Diamond Fall
by Joseph Olshan
(Polis Books)

From the acclaimed author of CLARA’S HEART and CLOUDLAND comes a rich, literary mystery based and united by two real events that occurred at Middlebury College; the disappearance of a student during winter break; and the vandalism of the Robert Frost Homestead located on one of the outer campuses.

Luc Flanders has just finished playing a game of pond hockey with his college roommates when he realizes he has lost something precious and goes back to the ice to find it. He never returns, and the police department in Middlebury, Vermont are divided in their assessment of what may have happened to him. Some feel that Flanders left on his own accord and is deliberately out of touch. Others, including detectives Nick Jenkins and Helen Kennedy, suspect that harm may have come to him. As the search for Luc Flanders widens and intensifies, suspicions about several different people, including his Middlebury College roommates and ex-girlfriend arise. Unfortunately, Sam Solomon an older man with whom Luc has been having a secret relationship, cannot prove his whereabouts during the hours when the younger man may have disappeared and Solomon, too, comes under suspicion.

As Luke Flanders disappears, the Robert Frost house near the Middlebury campus is vandalized. And there seems to be a link between the two events that the police are determined to discover. Alternating points of view between Luc Flanders Sam Solomon, Luc’s mother and detective Nick Jenkins, BLACK DIAMOND FALL races to a disturbing and astonishing conclusion in a lush, literary mystery that could only come from the mind of acclaimed author Joseph Olshan. (Buy) 18 September

The Good Messenger by John Simmons.jpgThe Good Messenger
by John Simmons
(Urbane Publications)
1912: Tom Shepherd reluctantly stays for two weeks at Hardinge Hall. Mr and Mrs Hardinge are trying to arrange a marriage for their son Teddy to Iris, daughter of a local businessman. Tommy becomes the innocent messenger who delivers the secret arrangements.

Armistice Day 1918: The First World War has changed everything, especially the closeted world that Iris, Teddy and Tom existed in.

1927. Tom is now a journalist investigating the discovery of a baby’s bones in the woods around Hardinge Hall. Past and present move towards a resolution that might still bring everything crashing down.

John Simmons, author of the bestselling Spanish Crossings, delivers another powerful saga of love, deception and emotion. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker, William Trevor, and Sebastian Faulks. (Buy) 20 September

Wecome Back Jack by Liam SweenyWelcome Back Jack
by Liam Sweeny
(Down & Out Books)
When Jack was six years old, his parents were brutally slain by a serial killer. The police later found drifter Clyde Colsen driving a stolen car, his clothes soaked in blood. He was tried, convicted and executed. Jack grew up knowing the police got their man. Now a decorated homicide detective in New Rhodes, Jack arrives at the third crime scene of the “South End Killer” murders and finds his name. He will soon find out something else: thirty years ago, they got the wrong guy. And now the right guy’s come back to pay Jack and New Rhodes his bloody respects. As Jack struggles to stay on the case, his cat-and-mouse game with the killer makes him wonder if he’s the cat or the mouse. His family and everyone in his life is fair game. As the killer escalates and threatens the entire city, Jack has a question he must answer in his desperation: can he stop the monster without becoming one? (Buy) 29 September

Pulp- According to David Goodis by Jay GertzmanPulp, According to David Goodis
by Jay Gertzman
(Down & Out Books)

Pulp, According to David Goodis starts with six characteristics of 1950s pulp noir that please editors because they obviously fascinate mass-market readers. Extremely valuable is an urban setting, which Goodis provided chiefly in his home town, Philadelphia. There, as factories moved to the suburbs, employers, police, and politicians abandoned postwar working-class and underclass neighborhoods. Declared “blighted,” they endured the racketeering of the local mob boss. Only Goodis saw, in this Street of the Lost and in Down There and Night Squad, a still-vibrant community solidarity. He dramatizes all this in the language of the streets, the way a great film director would, and in fact Delmar Davies, Paul Wendkos, and Jacques Tourneur did produce films of his novels.

As a Hollywood script writer, his most prestigious assignment was for an unproduced film on working class vets. It eventually became a prose poem in pulp paperback format, The Blonde on the Street Corner, set in the Depression-era Philadelphia of row houses and corner hang-outs. We become intimate with the manic-depressive protagonist, his drifting friends, his street corner, and the enigmatic wintry moonlight of a park in north Philadelphia.

The writer departs radically from pulp crime conventions with themes of brother-sister incest (Of Tender Sin, The Moon in the Gutter). This gives him a chance to reveal the desperation of people who do not dare to examine their psychosexual desires and the nuclear family dynamics that nurtured them. Instead, they attach themselves to sexually aggressive women who add to their humiliation and guilt. They damn themselves to substituting pain for mutuality, as if the only feeling that arouses them is guilt.

In many novels, Goodis’ sympathy extends beyond the common man to the murderous crime boss, whose brutal success has deprived him of connection with a lover or a community. The successful gangster is “alone and guilty and defenseless amongst enemies; one is punished for success” (Robert Warshow). Night Squad and Black Friday are exemplary. It is yet another example of how a crime writer can teach his mass readership how to think beyond the expectations for the pulp thriller. It also helps explain why “Goodis did not choose the pulp crime genre, it chose him.”

Pulp According delineates the noir profundity of Goodis’ work in the context of Franz Kafka’s narratives. Goodis’ precise sense of place, and painful insights about the indomitability of fate, parallel them. The Burglar, Down There, and Street of No Return are especially close. Both writers mix realism, the disorienting, and the dreamlike; both focus on horrific vistas of entrapment; both describe the protagonist’s apparent degeneration to a sub-human condition.

Goodis wrote his final novel, Somebody’s Done For, after the death of his parents, alone and bereft in the family home. This underappreciated story recapitulates his major noir preoccupations: the noble, doomed loser and the inaccessible nature of intimacy and mutuality.

The writer never told anyone he was more than an “entertainer.” But so were Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Hemingway, all of whom are echoed by David Goodis. If there is one writer of mass market pulp literature who exemplifies the intensity of post-World War II experience among readers of noir crime pulp, it is this “poet of the losers.” The emphasis is on “poet.” (Buy) 29 October

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