Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"The Pencil" by Raymond Chandler

Available in: Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. Knopf, 2002.

To mark the 120th anniversary of Chandler's birth, a review of this 1959 story, written especially for England twenty years after Philip Marlowe's previous appearance in the short form.

Here Marlowe is hired by Ikky Rothstein, a low-level mobster who's been targeted by the Outfit for execution and is looking to excape. Enlisting the help of his lady friend Anne Riordan, Marlowe manages to keep two hitmen off Ikky's trail, but in the aftermath he finds another man identified as Rothstein and himself the target of a hit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Between the Dark and the Daylight -- Tom Piccirilli, EQMM, Sept/Oct '08

"Between the Dark and the Daylight" has a great opening, with four men hanging off the ropes leading to a runaway hot-air balloon. How they got there and what happens to them, two of them in particular (not to mention the child in the basket above), is what makes the story. I'll just say that one of them is a bank robber and that it's his son in the basket. You'll want to check this one out because it is indeed nasty, brutish, and short.

The Boy Who Cried Wolfe -- Loren Estleman, EQMM, Sept/Oct '08

Is there anything Loren Estleman can't do? He's done Holmes pastiches, westerns, private-eye novels, historicals, crime novels, and humor. What we have here is a Nero Wolfe pastiche. Claudius Lyon is the large, eccentric crime-solver (can't afford orchids, to he grows tomatoes) and Arnie Woodbine is the secretary/legman. Arnie, being an ex-con, isn't quite as dapper as Archie, but he's a dandy narrator. When a kid asks Lyon to find his father, the team goes into action. It's a funny take on the Wolfe saga and another smart short from Estleman.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Mitzvah" by Tod Goldberg

From: Las Vegas Noir ed. Jarret Keene & Todd James Pierce. Akashic Books, 2008.

Fifteen years into his assumed identity as a Las Vegas rabbi, former Chicago mob hitman Sal Cupertine is fed up with the phoniness and monotony of his new life. After officiating at the fake funeral of policeman Vincent Castiglione, now known as Vincent Castleberg, Sal decides to steal the cop's identity and make a play to return to Chicago.

Showing the complexity of Sal's feelings and the depth of his despair, Goldberg makes readers care about a killer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

8 Across by Leigh Lundin

I've been meaning to write about this one for several days. It's about a sheriff named Jose and a deputy named Miller and what might happen if eight men crossed the border from Mexico, but it turned out they weren't Mexican at all and the knapsacks slung over their shoulders weren't not stuffed with clothes. What if those men had plans on attacking the Alamo? THE ALAMO! Where John Wayne and Richard Widmark held off thousands of Mexican soldiers with a big knife and a long gun. Where Davy Crockett got kilt.

In any event, Jose is one of the sympathetic and fully drawn characters you'll find in a short story and as regular readers will know, I appreciate any story where fully human characters are drawn. It's not an easy trick, but Mr. Lundin makes it fun here. He also manages to tweak several racial stereotypes. A lot of work for a short story.

Not sure about the picture that was drawn for it, but then Mr. Lundin didn't draw it, so I'll reserve my opinion.

I think the story is more suspense than mystery, but either way it works. You can find it in the April 2008 AHMM.