Tuesday, January 21, 2020
This is Coleman's third appearance in this space. Here is how it starts.
Most places in this state, it’s the wrong side of the tracks. Not in Brixton, no sir. In Brixton it’s the wrong side of the river. That’s funny on its face, ’cause any sane fool’d be hard-pressed to make a case for there being much of a right side in Brixton, neither. Let’s just say that there’s a…righter side. That the folks on the righter side’s got access to better crank.
So we know right away this story isn't going to be about tea parties in an English village.
The narrator is Pete Frame and his best friend is Jack Clooney. Jack explains that his own family are "a bunch of born scumbags in charge of what we got comin'."
One of the reasons the two guys get along so well is that Pete and his girlfriend Becki provide a beard for Jack who pretends to be dating her, but is really interested in her brother. That is something Jack's father would never be able to accept and "He has a lot less trouble expressing his will than our Lord and Savior. He or one of his clan lay hands on you, there ain't no room for spiritual interpretation."
I am quoting a lot because the language is what makes this story so special and enjoyable.
Monday, January 13, 2020
Thanks to Kevin Tipple for a correction.
When I started reading this story I had a strange sense of deja vu. Not that I had red the story before, but something similar.
But don't call the plagiarism police just yet. The story I was thinking of was also written by Chris Knopf. In fact, this is his third appearance on this page.
Our nameless character is a pretty cheerful guy but he has some problems. Take Harry, for instance. Harry isn't a problem, exactly, but a symptom of one. You see, he is our protagonist's only friend, and he happens to be from another dimension, and not visible to anyone else.
So, yeah, the guy has problems.
Right now he is living in his summer home, a tarp next to the river in Old Lyme, Connecticut. His neighbors are a big squatter he calls the Grouchy Witch, and a newly arrived woman is younger and attractive.
But now he has a new problem, because the Witch doesn't like the newcomer. And she has a big knife...
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
On the day of the latest stock market crash, twenty-two people plunged to their deaths from New York City skyscrapers. One of them was pushed.
That's a nice opening, don'tcha think?
Alan Webster, our narrator, was part of a gang that robbed a casino. Everything went perfect except the casino turned out to be owned by the mob and the mob doesn't collect their insurance and shrug it off when that sort of thing happens.
So they all went into hiding. Alan is in Australia when he hears that Fred supposedly jumped out a window. He doesn't believe it so he decides to be proactive, so to speak, by heading back to New York and convincing the mob that he is too much trouble to kill.
There is, it seems to me, a significant plot hole in the story (how did X find out about Y?) but it didn't keep me from enjoying it.
Sunday, December 29, 2019
This is the second appearance by my fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor on this page.
All the stories in this book involve crime and time travel, as you can probably guess from the title. If you are going to write about time travel the first thing you may need to decide is the method involved: science or some form of magic? Of course, you don't need to go into detail; when he was trying to sell Star Trek Gene Roddenberry pointed out that a starship captain doesn't need to explain his vehicle's propulsion system anymore than the star of a Western needs to describe the anatomy of a horse. But it's nice if you indicate whether your hero has built a machine, or has supernatural powers, or is simply in the right (?) place at the right (ahem) time.
In Taylor's story the transportation system is a deep psychological truth. In fact, I think the whole story is a metaphor for certain human interactions. But hey, no spoilers.
The man and the woman had reached that stage where their relationship would either turn more serious or slowly begin to dissolve. The seriousness wasn't about sex, a threshold they'd already crossed, but a step into some deeper, more emotional intimacy.
That's how our story begins. Nice style, isn't it? We never find out the names of the characters, because those don't matter.
What does matter is that the man asks his lover to tell him something special about herself. And she does, about something that hurt her badly, a long time ago...
This fine story gives you a lot to think about.
Monday, December 23, 2019
Helms is making his fourth appearance on this page, with a pretty straight-forward private eye story.
Huck Spence retired after thirty-some years in the Texas Rangers, got bored, and applied for a PI license. Most of his work turned out to be serving subpoenas. Usually not a very challenging gig.
One day he goes to Humble, not far from Houston, to serve a guy named Ralph Oakley who skipped out on jury duty on the very day that "the district judge's diverticulitis was flaring up. Judge was in the mood to knock broomsticks up some asses."
Our hero tracks luckless Ralph down and then somebody gets murdered and Huck's Ranger instincts take over. He wants to know whodunit and whether he was partly responsible.
A neatly plotted little tale.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
It is fashionable today for private eyes (and a lot of other protagonists) to have personal problems that affect their cases. Derrick Kruse has them, in spades. And that last part was an unintentional pun, as you shall see.
Kruse appears to be autistic and has OCD, which manifests as an obsession ith numbers. He is bad at poker because he is so desperate for straights, five numbers in a row. No doubt contributing to his problems is the fact that his father was an abusive monster who, naturally, picked on the kid who was different.
When Kruse spots a burglar in the middle of the night he encounters a woman with an abusive husband who has made off with her daughter, his stepchild. Naturally, this is not a case he can leave in the hands of the cops.
There are some unexpected twists an turns in this one.
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Here's a pro tip for all you professional criminals out there: When an old buddy tells you that a crime is so easy that "This thing steals itself," you probably want to get the hell out of there.
But our narrator, Rush, is visiting an old friend who is dying of emphysema, and he permits Jack to tell him about a crime he planned but doesn't have the time/strength to commit.
The crime may be easy but it isn't simple. It involves stealing the retirement plan of a Mafiosi after he turns it over to a crooked FBI agent in return for a get-out-of-prison free card. And to do that Rush will have to con another mobster, kill a bodyguard, and sweet-talk somebody's ex-girlfriend. Easy, no?
Anyone who reads this kind of stuff is already saying: No.
You will enjoy the twists and turns.