Monday, August 8, 2016
I am sorry to say goodbye to Thuglit. Todd Robinson and his staff have done terrific work with this magazine - last year two of the 14 stories on my Best Of list came from Thuglit. I am sorry the market didn't support the magazine as well as it deserved.
My favorite story in this issue is by James Creally. Try this line on for size:
"I'm sorry. Things just aren't working out."
That is a man breaking up with his girlfriend. What a cliche, right? Why would I bore you with such a banal line?
Well, Lonnie, our protagonist, is saying it to the woman who has just broken into his apartment with a hired thug because she discovered he was stealing from her. Which makes the cliche response a bit more interesting.
Lonnie is a failed scriptwriter, now making his living by bedding older women, i.e. cougars, and robbing them. It is not, as they say, sustainable, so he is trying to find a different approach as well, which may mean asking someone else he robbed for help. Comic noir.
I was a bit disappointed by the ending, but a very good story over all.
And goodbye, Thuglit.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Pity poor Fred. He's a nice guy but he happens to share a body with Conner, a hit man for the Russian mob.
Conner, his alternate personality tells us, is "a bad man who does awful things, but he's not a sociopath. If he was, I wouldn't exist."
So when Fred, the reluctant coping mechanism, wakes up he always know it means Conner has done something so horrific he can't face it. Which leaves poor Fred to clean up the mess, sometimes quite literally.
In this case Conner has killed a friend for his boss Vlad. ("He looks like what you think a Vlad would look like - dark-haired, goateed, and imposing...") But a piece of jewelry is missing and Fred has to find it. Which means finding the piece of the corpse it was attached to...
Or as Fred would swear, "Fiddlesticks!"
This story is a lot of fun.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
The best story in this collection of holiday tales from Thuglit Magazine was penned by the editor himself, alias Big Daddy Thug.
Boo and Junior are lifelong buddies, stuck holding down the fort in an empty Boston bar on Christmas Eve. They are both orphans, no one to get festive with. Noel makes Boo miserable and Junior happy, which makes Boo feel even worse. (Oh, and one thing to get straight: Boo calls Junior his "heterosexual life partner," but they are both male (unless I am reading the story wrong). So either Robinson or Boo really means platonic life partners.)
Back to the story. Into the joint wanders a semi-regular customer name Darla and a man she has apparently just met at another bar where she works.
Boo says: "I didn't like him immediately. He had that cocky Ivy League swagger, chin held at an arrogant angle. His overcoat looked extremely soft and extremely expensive. But maybe I was just feeling jealous of somebody with a beautiful woman on his arm on the worst night of my year...."
Turns out Boo's instincts are on target. Caleb, for such is the jerk's name, attempts to give Darla a date rape drug. Our heroes spot the scheme and things get complicated. And messy. And funny.
"So...do you guys have a plan?"
"For what?" Junior asked.
"To get him back into his room past the front desk."
"Improvise?" I said.
"That sounded like a question," Darla said.
I thought for a second. "Yes. Yes it did."
From the floor of the backseat erupted a terrified, "FLUMMWRAAAA!"
And happy holidays to all you thugs out there..
Sunday, November 15, 2015
A funny story on a sad subject: people who obsess about serial killers. Jonas Williker is on trial for multiple murders and his correspondents (almost all women) can't get enough of him.
There is a twelve-year-old who wants him to embrace Jesus. His mother assures him that she is confident he is innocent. (She is watching Oz to keep informed of his situation.) Staci, well, Staci is very blunt about what she wants but I can't repeat her requests here. Then there is Ginny who tells him about the two kids she adopted ("The approval process is faster for [special needs children], because no one wants them," and says "Whenever I get a letter from you I turn on Court TV and turn the volume down, so I can read it out loud and pretend you're talking to me." And then there is Candace, a PhD student who wants to study women who are sexually attracted to criminals. Purely for academic reasons, of course.
Horrible people. Damned funny story.
Monday, August 24, 2015
This review is late because I was at Sasquan, where, among other things, I heard two editors being interviewed. They were asked: what type of story are you so tired of you don't want to see any more? They refused to answer because (and I am paraphrasing, of course), no matter how cliched a category might be, someone is going to come up with the next new and original work in it, and they don't want to miss it.
This week's story starts with a bit of a cliche: The main character has been brutally attacked and locked in the trunk of her car, which is now headed for parts unknown. We stay in Abby's head as she runs through her life and concludes that there is no one who would want to do this to her. Therefore the target must be her daughter Margaret, a prosecuting attorney. Either someone wants to punish Margaret or else put a squeeze on her, and Abby is the pawn in jeopardy.
(By the way, this story is set in 1990. It stretched my disbelief that a white collar woman born in 1925 would swear like the proverbial sailor. But maybe that's just me.)
Back to the plot. So far we are in territory we have seen many times before. But when the trunk lid comes up, all bets are off. Nothing after that is predictable at all. Very nice piece of work.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Some stories you read on the edge of your seat, not because of the suspense in the telling, but because there are so many ways the author could go wrong. Will he make it to the end without screwing up? Obviously Steve Bailey did or we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Dianne is a woman who does bad things. She has her reasons, ugly events that happened in her past.
She makes her living cleaning people's houses and she is "an explorer, a secret digger inside people's hidden places." Yes, she steals from her clients, but she is much more interested in investigating their lives than in copping their goods, which in any case she is more likely to keep as souvenirs than to sell.
One day she discovers that a client - a woman with MS and her nine-year-old daughter - have a new neighbor, and she immediately recognizes that this man is in some ways like her. Up to no good. And maybe now she knows why several young girls in the city have vanished in the last year.
Trouble is, he also recognizes her for what she is... And you think YOUR relationships are problematic.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
There is a streak of puritanism running through some noir literature. Take one step off the straight-and-narrow and you are inevitably doomed. Things keep getting worse and every attempt you make to correct your path only drags you inexorably toward the pit.
Which brings us to Booster, a fireman with a chemistry degree, which earns him the dubious privilege of being the first into a meth lab gone deadly. He's the one who enters first in full HAZMAT gear and has to determine if all the idiots inside were killed by the poisonous brew they created or whether there might be survivors.
And this time he finds a bag stuffed with four hundred grand. Obviously he ought to leave it where it lies, but who will know if he doesn't? And so he takes one step off the straight-and-narrow...
Excellent story that kept surprising me.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
I can't find the name of the comedian who complained, approximately: "You always hear on the news about drug deals that went wrong. Why don't they ever talk about the thousands of drug deals that went right?"
Because they aren't newsworthy, of course. And they wouldn't make very good fiction.
So you can be pretty sure something is going to go pear-shaped in this tale of three crooks who come up with a brilliant new way to move cocaine around the city.
Melinda is the bright one, and she has built a drone capable of flying five pounds of product. Billy the narrator, and his short-on-impulse-control brother Richie have the connections with a major drug dealer with the not-at-all-ominous name of T. Rex.. All they need is to demonstrate what inventors call "proof of concept" and they are in for a very profitable partnership.
What could go wrong? Oh, something or other. Take it away, Richie:
"Well, there was a wrench up on the roof, and I hit him with it, and that all turned into a thing."
Yeah, I hate it when that happens. Good story.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Thuglit has upped its game since the last time I looked in at it. Lot of good stories here.
But lets talk about Mr. Rouleau's contribution. I have said I am a sucker for stories in which a character is offered a chance at redemption, whether or not he takes it. And that's what this tale is all about.
Sunrise thinks he's beyond such things. All though he doesn't have the vocabulary to say it, he feels he's doomed, predestined to crime. You see, someone told him you never recover from bad things that happened to you before you turn three, and really bad stuff happened to him. And that, he figures, is why he keeps ending up in jail.
On this particular occasion he had his friend Pedro steal a Maserati. They get away clean but they don't notice that there's somebody in the back seat.
A three-year-old boy.
What I love about this story is that Sunrise interprets what happens so differently than the reader is likely to. If there is doom here, I suppose that his attitude is it.