Monday, December 27, 2021

Born a Ramblin' Man, by Michel Lee Garrett

"Born a Ramblin' Man," by Michel Lee Garrett, in Trouble No More: Crime Fiction Inspired by Southern Rock and the Blues, edited by Mark Westmoreland, Down & Out Books 2021. 

This is a pretty silly story.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Ray is the ramblin' man.  He decides to leave Nashville with only one possession: a guitar he recently "liberated."  It's not a particularly wonderful guitar; he just wanted one.

His plan for leaving town is to sneak into the back of a truck full of fireworks.  Might work okay, except that there is already some contraband cargo in the vehicle: two women who do not want to be headed wherever the driver is taking them.

Luckily they have a rescuer on board.  Unluckily, the hero is Ray, and Ray, well...

"How goddamn dumb are you?"

"Um... fairly."

The fun part of the story is the conversation between Ray and the two prisoners.  And the fireworks, both literal and figurative.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Search for Eric Garcia, by E.A. Aymar

 "The Search for Eric Garcia," by E.A. Aymar, in Midnight Hour, a Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction From 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver, Crooked Lane Books, 2021

I  am not a big fan of stories told in the second person, as I have mentioned the, um, four other times one of them has made it onto this page.  But Aymar makes this one work very well.

You're sitting at the bar, thinking about choices.

The protagonist's life is going down the tubes.  His daughter died in an accident that he feels responsible for, although the authorities disagreed.  

His wife is living with Eric Garcia, who owns the store where our hero works.  Eric is everything he is not: a confident, successful man.  And our protagonist feels that the world isn't big enough to hold both of them.

This is a very clever story, one where the telling is as essential as the plot.  I do think it has some rough edges.  If I were the editor I would have asked Aymar to polish a few of them harder.  But this is a terrific piece of work.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Temptation is a Gun, by James D.F. Hannah


"Temptation is a Gun," by James D.F. Hannah, in Trouble No More
: Crime Fiction Inspired by Southern Rock and the Blues, edited by Mark Westmoreland, Down & Out Books 2021. 

The evening after he gets out of prison after 22 years, Roy returns to the dingy tavern where his life went off the rails.

If you are now thinking: "Hmm.  Sounds like noir," then congratulations.  You have just aced your quiz in Subgenre Recognition 101. 

The story slips between Roy's present visit to Murphy's Tavern and his first fateful encounter there at age 16.  Turns out that back then he met Murphy's much-abused wife.  And you know what happens when a noir protagonist meets an attractive woman.

Classic noir with some clever twists.  

Monday, December 6, 2021

Two Birds, One Todd, by Karen Harrington


"Two Birds, One Todd," by Karen Harrington, in Shotgun Honey.

This is the second appearance by Harrington in my column this year.

I think five or six flash stories have made it to my best-of-the-week list.  This story could probably have been expanded to three or four times its current length, but it wouldn't have made it a better story.  All the details you need are here.

Todd comes to clean the pool just as Ava is backing out of her driveway.  There is a fatal collision.

Such a tragedy.  Imagine how devastated Todd's widow must be.  She's the one at the funeral with big dark glasses to cover the last time he slapped her...

I did not see where this clever tale was headed.