Friday, May 28, 2010

"Everything Tastes Like Whiskey", by Scott Wolven

From: Plots With Guns, Issue #8 Winter, 2010.

As John walks to work across the University of Idaho campus, .44 Magnum strapped to his hip, no one seems interested in him. He himself has a hard time forgetting that he'd shot a man just the week before. All he's done since is sit at his house and drink beer.

Despite the fact it was self-defense, his boss at the detective agency thinks it would be a good idea if he left town for a while. A rancher named Bill Warner has been having some problems with wolves, and maybe trespassers, and John is dispatched to take care of it. Warner himself is an old man, many years widowed, and a drunk.

John sets up early one morning in a spot where he can spot the wolves if they approach Warner's cattle, but instead of wolves he sees three Mexicans instead, boys or young men. He warns them off in no uncertain terms, but they've brought trouble with them.

What can I say? Another winner for Scott Wolven. The character of John - tough but sensitive - is well drawn, as that of Warner and John's elderly uncle. If you're not a big fan of Wolven's, well, it's time you started.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"I Am Madame X's Bodyguard", by Patricia Abbott

From: Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Spring 2010.

Lennie, the narrator of "I Am Madame X's Bodyguard", used to be a pro's pro, keeping guys like John Gotti safe from their occupational hazards. But he's not the man he used to be. Recently his biggest job was guarding Joey Bananas during a long, slow death that finally came at age 97.

Now, though, he's got a new job. Not exactly glamorous, but very, very necessary. His new client has one of the most dangerous jobs in the country: she's a book reviewer for the New York Times.

And not just any reviewer, but one who writes lines like "an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass." As it turns out, she's just as critical of her bodyguard.

This story relies on a lot of inside baseball for the publishing crowd. Unless you're a regular reader of Sarah Weinman's review roundups you may not know who "Marilyn" is, for example. But if you're in on the joke, I suspect that you will find this story to be one of the funniest you've read in a while.

"Lapses", by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

From: The Second Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, ed. Ed Gorman.
Black Lizard Books, 1988

Ruth Donahue was on her way through the San Joaquin Valley when the pickup ahead of her wiped out, launching a dog into her windshield. Though the dog was killed, Ruth herself seemed to be okay. Maybe just a little... off.

After a trip to the hospital and a night in a motel, she feels ready to return to her home in San Luis Obispo. So she climbs into her rented Ford Escort and gets on the road. A little while later she glances at a road sign - and realizes she's driven two hundred miles out of her way. There's a gas station receipt on the seat beside her. She doesn't remember stopping.

She stops at a roadside church, welcoming a few minutes of peace with the friendly pastor. She sips the coffee he brings. And when she looks up...

Yarbro does a good job bringing Ruth's confusion and panic to the page. As the situations she finds herself in become increasingly bizarre, Ruth wonders Where have I been? What have I been doing? Though it takes a while to get going, "Lapses" is a fine, disturbing short story.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Derringer Winners

Yes, it's been all over the web. Yes, people are done with congratulations. In fact, some of the joy is probably ebbing from the winners, but... I thought I'd mention that the Derringer winners have been announced:

BEST FLASH STORY (Up to 1,000 Words)

"And Here's To You, Mrs. Edwardson" by Hamilton Waymire
Published in the webzine Big Pulp, November 23, 2009

BEST SHORT STORY (1,001 - 4,000 Words)

"Twas the Night" by Anita Page
Published in The Gift of Murder, October 2009

BEST LONG STORY (4,001 - 8,000 Words)

"Famous Last Words" by Doug Allyn
Published in EQMM, November 2009

BEST NOVELETTE (8,001 - 17,500 Words)

"Julius Katz" by Dave Zeltserman
Published in EQMM, September/October 2009


Lawrence Block

Links to many of the nominated stories are to be found at the Short Mystery Fiction Society website here.