Monday, October 15, 2018
This is the second story by R.M. Greenaway to make this page in two months. She seems to be having a good year.
"The collection is called City. That's all. City. Lot of structure, not a lot of people shots, 'cause that's been done to death. But they're in there, like puzzle pieces, just part of the chain-link right? Or the asphalt, or the puddles. Except for on the cover I've got an old guy..."
The speaker is Blaine and as you may have guessed he's a photographer. Perhaps a bit obsessive about it. And one morning, just at sunrise, he's out snapping pictures at the waterfront and he find a very fresh corpse. Of course he knows he should call 911, but the lighting is perfect, and how long will it last? Surely it won't hurt if he just changes lenses and takes a couple of artful frames...
And then the dead man twitches.
I'm going to stop here. This is a masterful story and I don't want to give anything away.
Monday, October 8, 2018
This is the fifth appearance in this column by winner of the Golden Derringer Award and fellow SleuthSayer Michael Bracken. It is mostly a very nice character sketch.
Graham Sugarman lives in Quarryville, a "dried-out scab of a town" in West Texas. The highlight of his week is Tuesday morning when the bookmobile arrives. Because he is only allowed to check out five books per visit he takes the heftiest ones available.
When asked if he has any plans he replies: "Same as always. I plan to read." And that's pretty much all he does.
You might get the feeling Mr. Sugarman is not quite normal. You're right. The reason for that turns out to be quite interesting.
But his very regular life is interrupted when the librarian who drives the bookmobile is murdered, stopping his service...
The third act is not as strong here as the earlier ones, but Mr. Sugarman is an interesting and believable character.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Mags is writing a note to her boss whom she does not like very much. Since he does a lot of public speaking and is not so good at it, she offers him some friendly advice. Well, maybe not so friendly.
2. Use the stage, but don't pace. It makes you look like an asshole when you do that. All those years you spent dodging the homeless and the addicts on Hastings has [sic] made you surprisingly agile for a man your age but you don't need to advertise this during your speeches. Plus, your fashion sense can't hold up to that kind of scrutiny...
Turns out her boss has a whole lot of dirty secrets. Turns out Mags, his much mistreated executive assistant, knows all of them. And the worm has begun to turn.
A charming tale of revenge.
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
The latest Bouchercon anthology is all about that most interesting state in our southeast. This tale is by my fellow SleuthSayer, Paul D. Marks.
Our narrator is Ed, a cheerful professional. He likes to satisfy his customers, so he takes lots of photos of the corpses. Corpses the clients wanted dead, obviously.
In this case that client is Ashley Smith - the lady with the titular pocket book reptile. She had expected to inherit a lot of money when her elderly husband died happily due to her enthusiastic ministrations. When she fond out the dough was going to the first wife, she went looking for someone with Ed's skill set. It wasn't really his photographic skills that she was interested in...
A breezy tale of multiple conspiracies.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
This is Mangeot's fourth appearance here.
Tori is the mayor of a small town in the Florida Panhandle, and she has had some bad luck. Not that it was her fault, of course. How could she know, when she stole city funds to buy some land, that the state would cancel the project they were planing to build on it?
Obviously there is only one possible solution: convince her useless brother to dress up as a swamp ape and use her female wiles to persuade a local reporter to come out where said monster can be witnessed, thereby bringing a storm of tourists to the site.
Simple, really. What could possibly go wrong?
Mangeot is one of our foremost writers of funny short crime stories.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
This is a weird story. By that I do not mean it is science fiction, or supernatural, or falls into all those bins we label "experimental fiction." It just goes in many unexpected directions. And that's a good thing.
It's 1973 and Heather is a waitress in Vancouver, B.C. In fact she has been a waitress since tenth grade, and a virgin for much longer than that, and nothing seems likely to change.
Except for Milestone. He's a hippy. He likes her and he has a plan. "You're the key. It's your face. It's perfect."
This is not a compliment, as it turns out. Milestone has a scam in mind: convincing a bunch of investors that he has the latest thing in sex toys, a female-looking robot straight from Japan. And Heather's not-quite-normal features make her the ideal prototype. "You're kind of cold and synthetic looking," Milestone explains. What girl could resist a come-on like that?
And so, having taken care of the virginity problem, they meet with a gang of pathetic men who are more interested in getting a realistic sex doll than they are in investing a bundle. What could possibly go wrong?
While you are make a no doubt lengthy list of possible answers to that question, I will explain that several of them are about to happen. But what makes the story truly interesting is what happens after things go pear-shaped. I especially enjoyed the conversation near the end by two people trying to make sense of it all.
A fun and imaginative piece.
Monday, September 3, 2018
Are you familiar with the term logline? Think of the one sentence description of a movie or a TV show you see in TV Guide or Netflix.
Here's a logline for a short story:
A senior citizen combats the bad element that is taking over the neighborhood.
I have probably read a dozen stories that fit that line. Of course, there are no new plots, just new things to do with the old ones. Is the senior alone or does he have allies? What kind of plot does he dream up? Does he succeed or fail? I remember decades ago reading a story in which an older woman, tired of having her purse snatched, carried a hand grenade in the purse with a string tied from her wrist to the pin. A mugger grabbed the purse and three seconds later, BOOM.
But that's not Savage's idea. Alice lives in New York City. She still teaches a few days a week at a middle school. She lives in a co-op which has always been neighborly and well-maintained, but recently a dozen apartments were purchased by a Russian mobster. Worse, he has moved his nephew, "a huge, unkempt, unfriendly, leather-jacketed hell-raiser named Georgi," into one of the apartments. Things start to go downhill. Alice's friend Marco, a retired circus performer gets robbed and beaten, and that's not the worst of it.
But when Alice sees the janitor putting out rat poison she gets an idea on how to solve the Georgi problem. If only she can get Marco to go along with it.
I did not see the ending of this one coming.