"Tools of the Trade" by Tom Robinson, in Needle, issue 1, number 2.
At Sandra Seamans' indispensable website My Little Corner I recently learned about a new print publication called Needle, a " magazine of noir."
So I got it. And I must say, I don't get it.
Here's what I don't get. Apparently this is not a paying market. So how do they acquire such professional-quality stories? My first theory is that the publishers have a vast research department digging up blackmail evidence for noir writers. My second theory is still being formed.
The stories adhere more strictly to the classic noir formula (a nobody tries to be somebody and gets shafted) than, say, the Akashic noir city anthologies I have read.
For example, Todd Robinson's "Tools of the Trade." The nobody in this case is a card cheat and the way he tries to rise above himself is by playing in a game where he can't cheat. Inevitably, things don't turn out the way he hoped.
The story is told cleverly in a series of flashbacks and fragmented scenes. Eventually you find out what happened and precisely what hole he has dug himself into. And as with most of the stories in Needle, the quality of the writing and language is very high.
Gamblers are like thieves. Real poker players take money that isn't ours and we do it through lies and deception. Every poker face is either a lie or hiding a lie. Like thieves, we're always looking for the great score. The one big haul that will set up up with the house in Cabo and the fleet of Cadillacs.
But that's a lie too.