Sunday, September 11, 2016
Heightened language. What does that mean?
To me it means the words in the story do something more than get the story from the beginning to the end. They tell you something about the characters or the nature of the universe in which they find themselves.
Here is Barnes' omniscient third-person narrator describing the main character's dog:
Gid got his name in the army. the shredded ear is courtesy of the service as well. the shelter dude said the dog left the service early because he lost his sense of mission, basically went AWOL and played catch with Afghan kids. As soon as she heard that Drew felt a sense of kinship with the dog, a bond. She got blown up and put back together in Iraq. Lost her sense of mission, too, in the desert near Fallujah. The shrapnel in her left leg sets off screaming alarms in airports.
Yeah. Heightened writing.
Drew wants to be a cop in Boston but it's hard to make the resident-for-a-year requirement when you are living in your car with your only friend, a beat-up ex-army dog.
So she's working night security on a tow service parking lot, down by the river. One night a crate of assault weapons washes up on the shore. Something bad is going on. Does it involve the lot? Can she survive long eonough to find out?
Sunday, September 4, 2016
What do you find at the corner of Noir and Southern Gothic? Wicked young ladies, for one thing.
Douglas is a teenager who has come up with the perfect place to sell drugs: his church's youth group. Pastor Jerry loves the kids' ecstatic enthusiasm and doesn't have a clue as to what's going on. He also doesn't know what's going on between his young daughter and Douglas.
But another adult gets Douglas into trouble with his dealer and things, in fine Noir fashion, go to hell. What I love about this story is that it is full of classic Noir characters but you can't predict what will happen based on the standard stereotypes. Some of them go off in surprising directions. Very nice piece of work.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
This may the grimmest story I ever chose as my best of the week. Nothing jolly here, folks.
Becca is moving to a duplex because her husband has a restraining order out against her. Seems she threw some tea cups at him, among other things.
Their son died a few years ago and they have recovered at different paces, which leads to tension. That can happen after a tragedy.
But there are rumors flying around the neighborhood that the child's death was not an accident. And Becca is drinking a lot. Plus there is a little boy who keeps following her around, a few years older than her own son would have been. What's that all about?
I sometimes complain that the editors of the Akashic Noir series forget that it isn't enough just to be depressing; the stories need crime as well. No worries here; Benedict is not afraid to get her characters' hands dirty. If you like your fiction grim, I recommend it.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
This is the second appearance in this space for Estleman and his stories of the Four Horsemen. While it is not a whodunit there are mysteries of a sort that left me pleasantly puzzled. We will get to them.
The Four Horsemen are what remains of the vice squad of the Detroit Police Department during World War II. They are not popular with the bosses but are determined to stay in nice safe Michigan and not get sent to, say Iwo Jima.
In this case they are given the job of bodyguarding a flying ace who is in Detroit on a tour to promote war bonds. Problem is he turns out to not be a very nice person. And that's putting it mildly. So our alleged heroes have to decide what to do about that.
Which brings up my puzzles. If this a crime story, what crime exactly is the subject? And are the Horsemen working for or against the war effort in this affair?
Read it and decide for yourself. You will enjoy it.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
This is Swierczynski's second appearance here.
As I have said before, yea, in this very space, you don't need a new plot device to write a terrific story. You can just think of something original to do with an old one.
The idea of two personalities inhabiting one body goes back at least to Robert Louis Stevenson. And that appears to be what's going on.
Gibbs is keeping a journal to try to make sense of what's going on in his life, and maybe in his head. A woman in California invited him to her party so he driving all the way from Philadelphia for the occasion. He has no clue why he would agree to do that.
But someone else writes in the journal too when Gibbs is drunk, and then maliciously destroys the pages...
Is this a simple case of psychosis or is something much more sinister going on?
I can't much more without giving stuff away. It is a satisfactory tale with several twists I did see coming.
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.