Sunday, October 24, 2021

Killing Calhoun Again, by Alan Orloff

 "Killing Calhoun Again," by Alan Orloff, in This Time For Sure: Bouchercon Anthology 2021, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan,  Down & Out Books, 2021. 

"The first time I killed Royce Calhoun I’d been floating on three Wild Turkeys and a raft of rage."

And so we begin.  Jake Pardee got jealous because Calhoun had been "doing the nasty" with his girlfriend Angela May, so he shot him, twice., and then took off  Apparently he should have gone for the hat trick, because Jake's friend Mouse tells him that Calhoun is back, insufficiently dead, and still hanging around with Angela May.  

"I had no reason to doubt Mouse, not about this anyhow. He spouted some conspiracy nonsense at times, and he had trouble always knowing right from wrong, but when it came to something like this— ratting someone out— he was usually dead on."

Charming language these low-lifes speak. 

I admit it was the last sentence of the story - not so much a twist as a punchline - that made this my favorite of the week. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Big Store, by Terence Faherty


"The Big Store," by Terence Faherty, in Monkey Business:Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers, edited by Josh Pachter, Untreed Reads, 2021.

I have a story in this book.

This is the eighth appearance in this space by my fellow SleuthSayer Terence Faherty.

Last week I wrote about a story in this book that gave us a view of the Marx Brothers as they might have appeared in real life  Today we go to the opposite extreme with a story that could be a sequel to the movie in question -  and it's odd that such a bad movie could lead to such a good story.

Our narrator is private eye Wolf J. Flywheel. Groucho's character. Based on his success in saving Martha Phelps' department store in the movie  he now has an office in her shop and is pursuing his detective business while also pursuing the boss.

"Martha, Martha, Martha. I could say her name a million times. Once for every greenback she has in the bank."

If his motives are less than pure, his language is pretty hilarious, and convincingly Marxist.

"The department store business is one tough racket. Machine Gun Kelly once tried to return a violin case to Macy’s without a receipt and ended up kissing the sidewalk."

I won't go into the plot.  Let's just say mischief is afoot and Flywheel has to rush to the rescue with the assistance, if that;s the word I'm searching for, of an Italian blackmailer and a silent harpist.    Good times.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Day at the Races, by Joseph S. Walker


"A Day at the Races," by Joseph S. Walker, in Monkey Business:Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers, edited by Josh Pachter, Untreed Reads, 2021.

I have a story in this book.

This is the third appearance here by Joseph S. Walker, the second this year.

One of the interesting things about an anthology like this one is seeing the many different ways authors interpret the theme.  Some use the plot of the film as a jumping-off place.  Others work with the on-screen personas of the brothers.  This is the first one I have read that tries to show us our heroes as they might have appeared in real life.

Julia Simmons is the head of personnel and payroll at Santa Anita Racetrack and this is the day before the film crew will arrive to shoot the racing scenes for the new Marx Brothers movie.  Unfortunately it is also the day that the manager of the track is murdered.  The handsome detective in charge of investigating the case has many questions which keeps Julia rushing back to her office - where an odd little man in a gray suit is hanging around for no apparent reason.  We will figure out his part in the story long before she does, but it's fun hearing his commentary on the action.

There's a lot of wit in this tale, and a satisfactory plot.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Providence, by Clark Boyd

 "Providence," by Clark Boyd, in This Time For Sure, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan, edited by Down and Out, 2021. 

Xavier has job satisfaction problems.  He's a hitman for One Shot Valenti and he doesn't feel a lot of job security.  This is a business where getting laid off involves ceasing to breath.

Our hero has an interesting view of the world.  Here he is watching a baseball game: "[W]hen there’s a conference on the mound, I amuse myself by pretending, aloud, that they’re discussing existentialist philosophy. “Coach, I can get this guy. Take a leap of faith.” “But Pedro, did the great Dane not also say, ‘The specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair?’ Now hand me the goddamn ball."

Honestly I didn't find the plot all that convincing, but the characters are dialog are more than worth the ride.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Funeral Games, by Hal Bodner

"Funeral Games," by Hal Bodner, in Avenging Angelenos, edited by Sarah M. Chen, Wrona Gall and Pamela Samuels Young, Down and Out Books, 2021.

This is a very silly story.  That is not an insult.

Southern California's funeral industry is viciously competitive when it comes to celebrity funerals.  People measure a memorial park's cachet by how many stars are buried on-site.  Needless to say, the plots and crypts are priced accordingly.  It never fails to astonish me how many people will pay top dollar to spend their eternal rest within spitting distance of a rock star when in life, they'd have been outraged by the loud parties next door and called the police on the groupies throwing up on their lawn.

Mickey owns one such memorial park.  His nemesis and ex-lover is the wonderfully named Julia Shrike.  They will do anything to steal top-of-their-fame dead rockers or even over-the-hill movie stars from each other.  Bribery, lies, and even grave-robbing are not off the menu.

As the tit-for-tat escalates it is anyone's guess who will wind up on top.  Great fun.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Incident at a Diner, by Chris Miller

 "Incident at a Diner," by Chris Miller, in Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology, edited by Andy Rausch, All Due Respect, 2021.

This is one of those stories that grew on me, meaning I liked it better the more I thought about it.  There are so many moving pieces it takes a while to sort everything out.

Sam and Millie are meeting for breakfast in a diner in rural Texas.  They are deep in lust and soaking in guilt because Sam is cheating on his wife.  

But they aren't the only people having trouble in that joint.  A man and woman are arguing furiously about something.  Two gangster-types from New Jersey are complaining about an associate has screwed up.  And then there's the old cowboy who seems to have his own agenda.  How is this all going to work out? And, let's remember: why is this story in a book about hit men?

The climax surprised me a lot.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A Hell of a Thing, by Wayne J. Gardiner

 "A Hell of a Thing," by Wayne J. Gardiner, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2021.

This is the second appearance here by Wayne J. Gardiner.  It doesn't have a complicated plot, more of a slice-of-life story.  

On the first page Carly does something most officers never need to do in their whole careers: fire her weapon in action.  In fact, she shoots three armed robbers and she shoots them all dead.

The rest of the story is about her trying to find ways to cope with her reactions and those of the people around her.  And, perhaps inevitably, there is a niggling self-doubt: Is she sure the first robber was turning his gun toward her?

It is a moving tale, well-told.