Friday, February 29, 2008

"A Long Time To Die" by Dave Zeltserman

Originally appeared in New Mystery Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2. (1992)

In honor of this year's longer February, a review of Dave Zeltserman's first published story. The protag, Nick, covered up his brother Brendon's role in a hit-and-run accident to save Brendon's promising law career. Sentenced to join the military, Nick was sent to Vietnam and returned a shell of himself. As the story begins, the brothers are reunited after Brendon hired a detective to find Nick. Brendon offers to get Nick back on the right track, but as one might expect from the noirish Zeltserman, that's not how things work out.

"A Long Time To Die" was recently made available as the MP3 podcast "A Long To Die", read by Alan Vogel of Lit103.3.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Thoroughly Yours" by Kieran Shea

From: Plots with Guns 1 (February 2008).

After a three-plus-year absence, Neil Smith's respected contemporary noir ezine relaunched last week. The first sentence of Kieran Shea's story reads, "On his 42nd birthday, Boris Rugova jackhammered into Skip Matthews' loaded $72,000 Sport Coup Lexus at twenty-one miles per hour."

Rugova politely offers to pay the damages, but irate lawyer Matthews threatens to sue him. Rugova leaves multiple messages at Matthews' firm, visits the firm trying to make amends, but Matthews will have none of it.

Finally, Rugova approaches Matthews away from the office and gets down on his knees begging Matthews to let him work off the repairs, and Matthews says he'll think about it.

You might have guessed this is a setup for more. Shea drops enough clues and keeps a brisk pace while leaving enough in the dark to maintain surprise. The requisite gun appears, and fans of unvarnished violence get the whack of a hammer against bone.

The new PWG website features easily readable text paired with eye-grabbing photography by Peter Kim.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What Friends Are For by Russel McLean

The current issue of AHMM carries a literary treat. "What Friends Are For" is a story in Russel McLean's series of shorts concerning a Dundee PI named Sam. Sam used to be part of the police force, but now he fights for justice...literally. The series is one of my favorite short story series, ranking up there for me with G. Miki Hayden's Miriam and IJ Parker's Akitada series. Russel's stories are filled with rounded, human characters - no cartoon characters, just people who love and hate and care. It's what I love about the stories. This story does not disappoint.

In it, Sam's friend from his time on the police force has been arrested - a witness says he beat someone up, but the story doesn't convince Sam. He thinks his friend is being framed and he prowls about town trying to find the truth of the matter...and if it means stepping on someone's crotch to get the info he needs, he's the man to do it. But can he figure out the truth before his friend is brought before a judge, kicked off the force, sent to prison? In short, before the friend's life is ruined which is the apparent goal of someone in the shadows?

Take a look at the story. It is worth the price of the AHMM issue which, by the way, seems to have gone up a full dollar to $4.99. I'm hoping this is a special price to offset the huge rush of demand for an issue with a Russel McLean story and the price will go back down in the next issue...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

NBS Special - Love Hurts: A Valentine's Blog Event

On January 17, Patricia Abbott invited readers of her blog to write stories 750 words or less on the theme of love and crime, to be posted today.

Sixteen writers responded, including Graham and myself. Enjoy.

Patricia Abbott, "Tongues"

Stephen Allan, "The Many Forms of Love"

Patrick Shawn Bagley, "Leaving Rachel"

Cormac Brown, "Warmer"

Aldo Calcagno, "Love on the Rocks"

Clair Dickson, "Cupid's Bullet"

Sophie Littlefield, "Rival Passions"

Todd Mason, "Afterward"

John McAuley, "Since I've Been Loving You"

Christa M. Miller, "Beautiful Trouble"

Graham Powell, "The Last Time"

Bryon Quertermous, "Stand Up on Blow Pops"

r2, "Doctor, Doctor"

Sandra Seamans, "Bye, Bye Love"

Gerald So, "Connect the Dots"

WellesFan, "A Day Late"

"Cherish" by Alison Gaylin

From: A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir. Ed. Megan Abbott. Busted Flush Press, 2007.

25-year-old movie theater usher Myra Jane Wurtz is so infatuated with leading man Deacon Blaine, she believes he speaks to her through the silver screen. This secret communication grows into dream-like visits from Deacon, and soon Myra believes Deacon wants her to kill his mistress, Grace Ryan.

An engrossing, darkly funny story from the author of Hide Your Eyes, You Kill Me, and Trashed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Slice of Pie" by Bill Cameron

From: Killer Year ed. Lee Child. St. Martin's, 2008.

Not long after his father's death, Raymond is in the bathroom at his parents' house when he overhears a man ask his mother for money. His mother explains that the rumpled-looking man, Mr. Franklin, locked himself out of his car and needs $20 for a blacksmith, but Ray is convinced the man is conning her.

Using the confines of first person to their best effect, Cameron lets readers feel Ray's frustration dealing with a strong-willed mother who still treats him like a child. Ray drives by his mother's neighborhood the next few days, subconsciously looking for Mr. Franklin. He remains convinced Franklin is a conman, tempting readers to believe the same, keeping them on the hook until the final word.

In her introduction to the story, Anne Frasier remarks on the realism of Cameron's work. As a fan of realism, I concur.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Part Light, Part Memory" by Bonnie Hearn Hill

From: Death Do Us Part, ed. Harlan Coben. Little, Brown, and Company, 2006.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, before word of Emancipation has spread through the South, fifteen-year-old Little Mary's father John William is hanged for the crime of looking at his master's wife. Little Mary swears to kill her mistress Miz Bessie. Hatred and thoughts of revenge threaten to consume her, but after overhearing a fight between Miz Bessie and her husband, Mary turns her wrath against him.

As a child of the 1970s, it's difficult for me to read about people being treated as property. Nonetheless, this story is vividly and compellingly told, and I know if minorities before me didn't fight for equality, I would have no place in America.