Small Press Crime Fiction Week in Review
Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of August 5th through August 11th with links to news, reviews, short fiction, podcasts, and new releases.
If you have a moment, could you just check some boxes for me? Try not to check them all. 😉
We’ll start this week with my Do Some Damage interview with Stephen Mack Jones, author of the award-winning “August Snow” and the forthcoming “Lives Laid Away”. We talked about his two books, Detroit, and Mexican food.
I guess what I’m getting at is the fact that Detroiters are tough. Resilient. We’re fighters and our creativity is at its best when we have to fight. If you’re not from Detroit it’s easy to think one right hook and we hit the mat. But the count never gets to ten because we get back up, bloodied and bruised, and with a smile, we say, “Is that all you got?” Everybody wants the story of the fall. The truth of Detroit’s spirit is how we rise. Every day. All day.
Will Viharo interviewed Eddie Muller, host of TCM’s Noir Alley. Viharo asked about Muller wearing so many hats from novelist to hosting on TV.
I’ve come to terms with the juggling act by just saying I’m a storyteller. That’s what I do on TCM. Even when I’m programming film festivals I feel like that’s what I’m doing — telling a story. And just so everybody is clear on this— I have never yet uttered a word in public than anybody else has written for me, including those wine club spots I do for TCM. I’m just making that stuff up as we go along. No matter what I do—whether it’s writing a novel, a short story, or introducing movies—I’m telling a story.
The battle between prescriptivists and descriptivists in “When Dictionaries Ruled The World”.
A prescriptivist would insist that you cannot use a singular they and that you can’t use “literally” as a synonym for “figuratively”. A descriptivist would point out that famous novelists have been breaking those rules for longer than prescriptivists have been trying to enforce them, and invite the prescriptivists to go hold a seance and take the issue up with Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
Other news you can use: V.S. Naipaul died; Angel Luis Colón, author of “Pull & Pray”, interviewed by Scott Adlerberg at Do Som Damage; Brian Lindemmuth reshared an interview with western writer Eric Red who has a new book out called, “Noose”; Dennis Palumbo, author of “Head Wounds”, on erotomania which a person has the delusion that another person is in love with them; the subtle art of condescension; an interview with Dayna Anderson, the lead character of “Hollywood Ending” by Kellye Garrett; this time an actual interview with Kellye Garrett; on the importance of fanfiction; book socks; writers may well be elitist but not because they’re against piracy; interesting article about small presses, very interesting if you get your mind to filter out every mention of Brooklyn; David Joy on rural working class fiction; LynDee Walker is this week’s Composite Sketch at BOLO Books; David Goodis Didn’t Choose Pulp, It Choose Him; and Steph Post interviewed Earl Javorsky, author of “Down to No Good”, and doubled-up with an interview with Nick Kolakowski, author of “Boise Longpig Hunting Club”.
Adrian McKinty suggests reasons to read James Ellroy’s “The Cold Six Thousand” and Don Winslow’s “The Power of the Dog”.
Art Taylor points us to a list of all Anthony Finalists for Best Short Story.
Some two weeks of short stories to recommend.
- “Morning After” by Terri Lynn Coop (Shotgun Honey)
- “Where Katie Hid” by P.T. Corwin (Near to the Knuckle)
- “Through and Through: A Bullet’s Lament” by Matthew Iden (Shotgun Honey)
- “The One that Got Away” by Brianna Johnson (The Molotov Cocktail)
- “A Fair Share” by Ashley Naftule (The Molotov Cocktail)
- “Frankie” by Warren Moore (Retreats from Oblivion)
- “Mr. Sparkles” by David Rachels (Retreats from Oblivion)
- “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” By Jesse Rawlins (The Rye Whiskey Review)
- “A Good Man” by J.B. Stevens (Flash Fiction Offensive)
“Failing to sell a novel is pretty much the dictionary definition of a First World problem.” – Michael Bourne
K.M. Weiland on how to choose a theme; Joshua Isard, author of “Conquistador of the Useless”, on the character traits needed to be a writer; Liz Milliron looks at The First Two Pages about her new book, “Root of All Evil”; Chuck Wendig wrote that your first draft does not require your faith; Rob Reynolds, author of “Cold Desert Sky”, interviewed by Steph Broadribb about writing and, specifically, procrastination.
Two featured podcasts to listen to this week. The first is J. David Osborne’s interview with Kelby Losack, author of “Heathenish” and the upcoming “The Way We Came In”. This podcast is what would be considered a bit weird. I’ll leave it at that.
The second featured podcast is a bit more of the normal; sorry Rob, Aimee, and Jay. Crime Friction podcast interviewed Rob Hart, author of “Potter’s Field”.
At NPR, Bethanne Patrick reviewed “Baghdad Noir” edited by Samuel Shimon. This book is part of the Akashic Noir series.
Among them these writers encompass, if not a Baghdad entire, then at least a Baghdad of diverse experiences and perspectives, and absolutely a Baghdad focused on the Arabic world and not the Western. “While all Iraqis will readily agree that their life has always been noir, the majority of the stories in Baghdad Noir are set in the years following the American invasion of 2003,” writes Shimon. These stories deal with subjects from militia insurrection to a mental hospital to orders from mujahideen to honor killings; what struck me about them was how firmly each story is cemented in Iraqi culture, but how little a sense of geography they allow. I don’t think that’s accidental, although it may be subconscious. In a city torn apart by history, religion, armies, and insurrection, a sense of geography isn’t easy to give — sometimes, as in “The Apartment” by Salih, a character has so much trouble just crossing from one side of town to the other that tragedy ensues.
Ben Lelievre reviewed Charles Willeford’s “Miami Blues”.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Miami Blues. It’s not even remotely similar to any detective novels I’ve read before and its bizarre, offbeat underbelly kept me entertained for most of its duration. Sure, it has issues that are infuriating because they’re keeping it from being one of the best detective novels ever written, but it’s creative and technically efficient enough that I would read it again given the right circumstances and it’s more than I can say about any novel, really. Expect some more Willeford on this site before the end of 2018 because the man was a complete riot behind a keyboard.
Other book reviews to consider are: Jedidiah Ayres, author of “Peckerwood”, lists a crapload of new books for us to read; Jen Conley’s “Cannibals” reviewed at Black Guys Do Read; Dru Ann Love reviewed “Hollywood Endings” by Kellyee Garrett; “The Retreat” by Mark Edwards reviewed; Erwin James, author of “A Life Inside” and a former long-term prisoner, reviewed “Strangeways: A Prison Officer’s Story” by Neil Samworth; James Brinkley’s “A Lucky Man” reviewed in LA Review of Books; “Hearing Evil” by Jason Parent reviewed; Graham Wynd reviewed Paul D. Brazill’s “Small Time Crimes” as well as Tom Leins; “Hope Never Dies” by Andrew Shaffer reviewed; review of “Return to Hiroshima” by written by Bob Van Laerhoven, translated by Brian Doyle; Colman Keane reviewed “Dread: The Art of Serial Killing” by Mark Ramsden; “The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories” by Teresa Solana reviewed; Adam Christopher’s “I Only Killed Him Once”, the third in his LA series about a robot detective, was reviewed; Rob Kitchin reviewed Joe Clifford’s “Lamentation”; and “Bluebird, Bluebird” by Attica Locke reviewed.
Before we jump into the list of new releases, here are some new release articles from elsewhere on the web: new international releases via CrimeReads; some cozy and psychological thrillers from dru’s book musings; and Criminal Elements suggested five new books;
The Getaway List
by Frank Zafiro
and Eric Beetner
(Down & Out Books)
Bricks and Cam are back, this time fleeing from the East Coast after closing accounts with the mob. Planning a new life on the West Coast, the pair of hit men stop off in Ashton, a small, rural town in eastern Washington, only to immediately find themselves embroiled in trouble in typical fashion.
What starts in a bar as a simple intervention between an abusive boyfriend and his victim girlfriend quickly escalates into a blood feud between Bricks and Cam and the family of local backwoods royalty, the Crawfords. Once Bricks and Cam draw first blood, all of the force of the extended Crawford family and their militia-minded cohorts are brought to bear on them. The Crawfords have numbers and hometown advantage, but they’ve never gone up against anyone like Bricks and Cam before. Bricks’ lethal cunning and Cam’s penchant for successful messes wreaks havoc with the Crawford’s attempts to bring them to small town justice.
Despite their talents, though, the two big city assassins soon find themselves struggling not just to win this war, but to make it out of town alive. (Buy)
Down with the Underdogs
by Ian Truman
(Down & Out Books)
Gentrification is moving in hard and fast in Montreal’s South-Western districts. D’Arcy Kennedy finds himself out of breath, out of a job and raising a kid in a small home meant for another era.
As the bulldozers take away entire chapters of his life, he turns to old acquaintances for work, leaning in on his hard-earned reputation as a good PI to find employment with the Irish mafia.
But even organized crime is struggling to keep up with the changing landscape of the City. Weed is going legal, trust funds are pushing realtors and people who would have not dared cross the Irish not so long ago now defy them carelessly.
Navigating his past and staking his future on this new life, D’Arcy Kennedy will have to thread a razor thin line between the law, loyalty and his own family if he wants a place for him and his own at the end of it all.
Praise for DOWN WITH THE UNDERDOGS:
“A working class family man strikes a deal with the devil in Ian Truman’s fast-paced, volatile Down with the Underdogs. The result is class warfare on the streets of Montreal. Truman offers an unflinching portrait of a city caught in the throes of gentrification, and one person’s struggle to fight back. An excellent read.” —Sam Wiebe, author of the Wakeland novels.
“Truman captures life on the edges—of culture, of language, of the legal and illegal, of the sane and the mad. And he tells a great story in the process.” —Warren Moore, author of Broken Glass Waltzes (Buy)
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)
No Turning Back
by Tracy Buchanan
(Crooked Lane Books)
This heart-pounding US debut from international bestseller Tracy Buchanan will captivate fans of Diane Chamberlain and Lisa Scottoline.
Young mother Anna Graves’ instinctual reaction to save her infant daughter from an attacker entangles her in a twisted murder case.
Anna Graves’s whole life has recently been turned upside down. A new mother, she’s just gone back to her job as a radio presenter and is busy navigating a new schedule of late night feeding and early morning wake ups while also dealing with her newly separated husband. Then the worst happens. While Anna is walking on the beach with her daughter, she’s attacked by a crazed teenager. Terrified, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her baby.
But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister. A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the “Ophelia Killer,” a serial killer who preyed on the town twenty years ago―and who abruptly stopped when Anna’s father committed suicide.
Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life? Internationally bestselling author Tracy Buchanan takes readers on an emotional roller coaster ride filled with heart-stopping secrets and hairpin turns in No Turning Back, her US debut. (Buy)
A Masterpiece of Corruption
by L.C. Tyler
(Felony and Mayhem)
Len Tyler has been shortlisted for two Edgar awards, won two of England’s “Last Laugh” awards, and racked up more great reviews than he’s had hot dinners: Why would he turn away from the stunningly funny “Elsie and Ethelred” series? Because the intrigues of Cromwell’s England were too juicy to pass up. Tangled in too many of them is John Grey, a newly minted lawyer and would-be ladies’ man with a bad habit of poking his nose into other people’s business. That’s unfortunate, because a mis-delivered letter has left Grey with more information about a murderous plot than it’s entirely safe to know. Can Grey prevent the murder? And of infinitely more importance, can he keep his mouth shut long enough to save his own skin? (Buy)
by David Gordon
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)
edited by Samuel Shimon
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)
edited by Yassin Adan
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)
Death in Shangri-La
by Yigal Zur
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)
by Kellye Garrett
And the award goes to . . .
. . . Dayna Anderson, the semi-famous actress turned PI who steps up her sleuthing swagger in this follow-up to breakout hit Hollywood Homicide, winner of the Lefty Award and the Agatha Award for Best First Novel!
Tinseltown’s awards season is in full swing, and everyone is obsessed with dressing up, scoring free swag, and getting invited to the biggest awards shows of the year. But when celebrity publicist Lyla Davis is killed, the festive mood comes to an abrupt halt.
Apprentice private eye Dayna Anderson thinks she’s uncovered the killer. Unfortunately, what starts as an open-and-shut case turns out to be anything but. Diving deeper into the investigation, Dayna gets a backstage look at gossip blogging, Hollywood royalty, and one of entertainment’s most respected awards shows—all while trying to avoid her own Hollywood ending. (Buy)
Death on the Menu
by Lucy Burdett
(Crooked Lane Press)
When a killer strikes just before flan time, beloved food critic Hayley Snow is forced to sniff out the killer before someone else bites the dust.
Hayley Snow, fiery food critic for Key Zest magazine, has just landed a ticket to one of the most prestigious events in Key West: a high-brow three-day conference at the Harry Truman Little White House. Even though she’ll be working the event helping her mother’s fledgling catering business, there’s plenty of spicy gossip to go around. But just before her mother’s decadent flan is put to the test, Key West’s most prized possession, Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal for The Old Man and the Sea, is discovered stolen from its case.
Unsavory suspicions point to Gabriel, a family friend and one of the new busboys working the event, who mysteriously goes missing moments later. Anxious to clear his name, Gabriel’s family enlists Hayley to help find him, but right as they begin their search, his body is found stabbed to death in the storeroom.
Hayley has no shortage of suspects to interrogate and very little time before the killer adds another victim to the menu in national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s delectable eighth Key West Food Critic mystery, Death on the Menu.
by Matt Coleman
On a wall of graffiti, blood splatter gets lost…
So Graffiti Creek–with its shadowed canopy of trees and evidence-destroying stream and the namesake bridge with its puzzle of spray paint–is not the place mysteries get solved. It’s the place where they begin. And Cary Trubody’s mystery began there before she even realized she was a part of it.
On the way home from a party, Cary gets pulled over for running a red light. Within minutes, a routine traffic stop turns into a nightmare of mistaken identity. After escaping from two crooked detectives, Cary finds herself framed for two murders and still clueless as to why every dirty cop in the city is after her.
Elsewhere in the city, Sameer Zardari hasn’t seen his husband in days, and his search leads him down the dark pathways of the journalist’s latest Quixotic story. And Marlowe Holliverse’s brother, Do Right, disappeared while shooting footage for that very story. Both men put themselves on a collision course with Cary, with all of them looking for answers and someone they can trust.
That person may be Bright Hudson. Since witnessing the murder of her father at the hands of a dirty cop, Bright has worked her way from a broken hearted little girl to a dogged police detective. And her life’s goal is to dismantle the inner-department extortion her father died trying to expose.
The key to putting all these puzzle pieces together is Cary. She has the one answer to everyone’s question. Unfortunately, she has no idea what that answer might be.
by Yasmina Reza
translated by Linda Asher
(Seven Stories Press)
Winner of the Prix Renaudot
Shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt
Elisabeth is a woman whose curiosity and passion far exceed the borders of her quiet middle-class life. She befriends a neighbor, organizes a small dinner party. And then, quite suddenly, finds herself embarked with him on an adventure that is one part vaudeville and one part high tragedy. A quiet novel of manners turns into a police procedural thriller. Her motivations for risking everything she has are never transparent. In a world where matters of life and death are nearly always transported to a clinical setting, whether it be a hospital or a courtroom, here each character must confront them unassisted. A truly original and masterful novel from one of the world’s most inventive and daring artists.
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