Monday, October 26, 2015

NBS Special Report: Flash and Bang: A Short Mystery Fiction Society Anthology

Cover ©2015 Untreed Reads Publishing
Cover design by Ginny Glass
The Short Mystery Fiction Society formed in 1996 to promote mystery & crime short fiction. Graham, Bill, Steven, and I are members.

On October 8, Untreed Reads published the Society's first member anthology, Flash and Bang, in paperback and ebook.

SMFS member and Untreed Reads editor-in-chief Jay Hartman called for unpublished mystery, suspense, or thriller stories containing either a "flash" or a "bang".

Limiting submissions to one flash (300–1,000 words) and one short (1,500–3,000 words) per member, Jay received more than 300.

His selection of 19 stories ranges from historical to contemporary, cozy to hardboiled, amateur and animal sleuth to police and private detective:

  • "The Conflagration at the Nameless Cotton Gin" by Bobbi A. Chukran
  • "The Perfect Crime" by Herschel Cozine
  • "Don't Let the Cop into the House" by O'Neil De Noux
  • "Fireworks" by P.A. De Voe
  • "Rosie's Choice" by John M. Floyd
  • "The Wrong Girl" by Barb Goffman
  • "Murder on Elm Street" by Su Kopil
  • "Silent Measures" by B.V. Lawson
  • "Don't Be Cruel" by JoAnne Lucas
  • "A Simple Job" by Andrew MacRae
  • "Arthur" by Sandra Murphy
  • "Thor's Breath" by Suzanne Berube Rorhus
  • "Beautiful Killer" by Judy Penz Sheluk
  • "A Day Like No Other" by Walter A.P. Soethoudt (translated by Willem Verhulst)
  • "The Raymond Chandler Con" by Earl Staggs
  • "The Bag Lady" by Laurie Stevens
  • "Fractured Memories" by Julie Tollefson
  • "The Fruit of Thy Loins" by Albert Tucher
  • "Sierra Noir" by Tim Wohlforth

Through October 31, Flash and Bang is part of Untreed Reads 30% Off sale on mystery and horror titles.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

"The Napoli Express", by Randall Garrett

The Napoli Express makes the run from Paris to Naples only twice a week. In the first-class cabin there are eight cabins, with room for sixteen passengers total, though on this run one of the cabins has only a single occupant. Two of the passengers on board for this trip are Lord Darcy, chief criminal investigator for the Duke of Normandy, and his assistant, master sorcerer Sean O Lochlainn, both with suitable aliases.

As the train makes its way down through Lyon to Marseille on the Mediterranean coast, and then along the coast to the duchies of Italy. Very late during the second night of the journey, Sean and Darcy hear the other occupants trooping along the corridor, one at a time, to the compartment containing only a single traveler, a man named John Peabody.

In the morning, Peabody is found dead, bludgeoned to death. A dozen blows to the head; a dozen visitors in the night. Coincidence?

Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy stories are set in an alternate history where English King Richard II did not die of a crossbow wound, but lived to found a Plantagenet dynasty that survived to modern times, and in which magic has been codified and is used in place of science in our own. Despite this, they are fair-play detective stories in which a rational solution can always be found - no magic required.

Garrett was also fond of seeking inspiration from the classics of the mystery genre. The most famous instance was his novel Too Many Magicians, in which a main character resembled Nero Wolfe and has a smart-aleck assistant named Bontriomphe ("good win"). The title of that one is quite similar those of Rex Stout's novels Too Many Cooks, Too Many Women, and Too Many Men.

In this case, of course, he's taking on Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. His solution is ingenious, and he even slips in some subtle criticism of the original.

You really can't go wrong with the Lord Darcy tales, which are available in a collection simply called Lord Darcy, which is out of print but easily found.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Shambleau" by C.L. Moore

Available in Northwest of Earth, Paizo Publishing, 2007

I became interested in C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories upon learning Smith was an inspiration for Star Wars' Han Solo. The first and most famous Smith story, "Shambleau", was also Moore's first professional sale (Weird Tales, November 1933). It establishes Smith as a tough-minded man visiting a colony on Mars for shady business the details of which are left cryptic. Spotting a young woman being chased by a mob, Smith manages to save her and avoid bloodshed simply by saying she is his, a twist that strikes even Smith as odd.

Letting the woman stay with him, Smith realizes she is not quite human, but cannot say definitively what she is. After a day out on business, Smith returns to his lodgings and acts on his attraction to his guest and her palpable willingness to have him. Before things go too far, Smith finds himself suddenly revolted. This, however, is not enough to save him a perilous second encounter with her.

I found Moore's style evocative yet easily readable, particularly in its depiction of Smith's conflicting attraction and horror at what he discovers the woman to be.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Heat Death" by Bill Cameron

On Twitter, Bill Cameron offered copies of the July/August 2015 AHMM, featuring this Skin Kadash story, and I was lucky enough to get one. Kadash is a cop in Cameron's loose series of novels, but "Heat Death" serves to introduce him to new readers while on a road trip to Canada with his only friend, Tommy, in the summer of 1971.

Expecting to be drafted into the U.S. Army, Tommy's motivation for the trip is to rendezvous with a woman he's fallen for, named Instance. Skin goes along to keep Tommy out of trouble, and only narrowly does so. As he sketches a younger Kadash, Cameron evokes the freedom of a road trip and the tension of the times equally well.