The last short ‘The Diary of Sue Peaner, Marooned Contestant’ by Sparkie Hayter was a good way to end an otherwise bland collection. In this, a Surviv...moreThe last short ‘The Diary of Sue Peaner, Marooned Contestant’ by Sparkie Hayter was a good way to end an otherwise bland collection. In this, a Survivor-type contestant is left to fend for herself when the cast is suddenly swept away courtesy of a typhoon. Sue finds herself washed up on an island and faced with the ultimate survivor experience. In its own right, this story gets 4 stars while ‘Tart Noir’ as a whole, suffers from too much deviation from the sub genre and perhaps tested the limits a tad too far to which noir can be defined. Some stories worked really well (Karen Slaughter, Sujata Massey, Katy Munger, Jenny Siler, Vicki Hendricks, and Sue Peaner were among the best) and others not so much. Overall an ok anthology with more misses than hits but enjoyable (at times) nonetheless – 2.5 stars. (less)
A very good collection of noir shorts the best of the bunch included Cameron price hughes, Carolyn Haines, Ed gorman, Tom piccalilli, bill pronzini, J...moreA very good collection of noir shorts the best of the bunch included Cameron price hughes, Carolyn Haines, Ed gorman, Tom piccalilli, bill pronzini, James reasoner, Kay Richardson, and anthony Neil smith (smiths being the highlight of the Collection(less)
Comprising 13 stories by 12 talented authors, 'Top Suspense' is top billing crime noir from the opening Nate Heller short 'Unreasonable Doubt' by Max...moreComprising 13 stories by 12 talented authors, 'Top Suspense' is top billing crime noir from the opening Nate Heller short 'Unreasonable Doubt' by Max Allan Collins to the anthologies final story 'The Chase' by the contributors. 'Unreasonable Doubt' ensured the collection opened with a bang as Heller is thrown into a mystery full of lies and deceit with an ending I didn't see coming. Max Allan Collins made 'Unreasobale Doubt' feel like a full length - it was that well rounded I couldn't believe so much was crammed into a short story. Bill Crinder's 'Deaths Brother' introduced the criminally minded and highly manipulative Dana in a fast paced romp of seduction and trickery, while Stephen Gallagher's 'Poisoned' turned down a slightly skewed path where perspective is everything - a classic. 'Remainded' by Lee Goldberg brings an authors crime novel to life courtesy of an overtly addicted fan - read more for the book nerdish fetish than thriller aspect but all enjoyable. 'Fire In The Sky' by Joel Goldman is a heist story with a difference where amusement park attractions aren't the only things to get burnt in a fire. The mid section of the anthology is where the best showcase their talent in Ed Gorman's look at a futuristic noir that couldn't possibly get any darker through 'The Baby Store' where manufactured perfection is everything. The scary thing is, the story is as plausible as it is harrowing - possibly the best of a bright bunch. Libby Fischer Hellmann's 'The Jade Elephant' and Vicki Hendricks 'The Big O' were pure ass and class. Rounding out my favourites is Harry Shannon's 'A Handful of Dust' in which a hit man is lured to a Nevada saloon by a man simply named 'Smith' on the assumption he's about to take on a new assignment. However, Pike ends up the hunted courtesy of the demented Smith - a nice take on the hit man angle with an interesting emotional dynamic. This is a collection not to be missed and one sure to introduce new authors (Harry Shannon for me) to readers who may have missed their earlier works. Great value from start to finish - 4 stars.(less)
Gone Bad is a collection of 18 short stories by Julie Morrigan. Judging from this collection, it's safe to say that from the dark and gritty depths of...moreGone Bad is a collection of 18 short stories by Julie Morrigan. Judging from this collection, it's safe to say that from the dark and gritty depths of urbane noir a new queen has risen. Morrigan's stories are filled with traditional darkness, humanitarian horror, humour, torture and violence. 'Keeping It Real' is a perfect blend of noir and horror as an aspiring crime writer takes to torturing their victim to death for the purpose of capturing the perfect murder scene in their novel. 'It Could Be You' tells the tale of a lottery ticket which leads to death - family drama with a touch of hit-man. 'The Loan Arranger' made me feel as though I were reading Allan Guthrie.-Morrigan explored all manner of depravity and pure wrongness in 'Colin' - a torrid story of a sex crazed teenager and the similarly themed 'Local Hero' - a story of a would-be rapist who ends up a maimed hero after saving his would be victim from an attempted rape. Other notable mentions include 'Watching', a tale about an overprotective father who makes a mess of his daughters life, and the humours 'Pick a Pig Night'. However, its 'Devlin, Me an Cheery B' and 'Let's Dance' which take the cake - both showcase strong and unrelenting female protagonists who know how to survive and fight for what they want. As far as short story collections go, you'd be hard pressed to find a better splattering of noir in the one place. Bring on the full length novel - 4 stars.(less)
An excellent collection of chronologically linked stories featuring emotionally tormented P.I Jackson Donne. Each story showcases the protagonists str...moreAn excellent collection of chronologically linked stories featuring emotionally tormented P.I Jackson Donne. Each story showcases the protagonists struggle to overcome the loss of his finace' and maturing love affair with the bottle. More Sinned Against provides a great historical context of past events and cases undertaken by Donne throughout his career as a cop and later P.I. My favourites were towards the end where the POV switched to Donne's ex partner - nothing short of explosive. I highly recommend this collection for anyone who has read Dave White's full length novels or is thinking about it - 4 stars.(less)
Some minor formatting issues on the kindle. Content wise, pretty good with Anthony Neil Smith, Christa Faust and the Duane Swierczynski interview bein...moreSome minor formatting issues on the kindle. Content wise, pretty good with Anthony Neil Smith, Christa Faust and the Duane Swierczynski interview being the highlights. Also loved the Iron Fist comic review and commentary. 3.5 stars.(less)
The hype surrounding Jonathan Woods is entirely justified. 'Bad Juju and Other Stories...' is a fantastic collection of short stories lathered in gore...moreThe hype surrounding Jonathan Woods is entirely justified. 'Bad Juju and Other Stories...' is a fantastic collection of short stories lathered in gore, soaked in blood, and hard boiled in pitch black noir. Im probably alone in thinking the collection got off to a rocky start with 'Incident In The Tropics' and 'Bad Juju' not really doing it for me with both feeling like they were building towards something before coming to an abrupt end. From then on in the action really heated up with 'Down Mexico Way' in which we're introduced to Jack, a compulsive gambler who bets and looses his wife Jill in a vacation-vibe romp, while 'Ideas of a Murder in South Vermont' tells the story of a delusional husband who fantasies about murdering his partner in a number of gruesome ways - creepy and graphic and very well executed. 'Drive By' is nothing short of pure pulp as Thigpen falls for a curvaceous and somewhat deranged beauty and ultimately ends up embroiled in a family drama leading to the unveiling of a murder plot and broken promises - one of the best in the collection. 'Maracaibo' felt like a modified Mr. and Mrs. Smith retelling with a bit of diamond snuggling thrown in for good measure, again a solid story and great addition to the collection.
I could go on and on about how good all these stories are in their own right but it would take far too long - other highlights include: 'No Way Jose' - a multi layered short story in which a bunch of characters come together at end in a dramatic conclusion, 'Dog Dayz' - very noir, very cool, 'Goa' a story about a bank heist and a timely encounter of the unexpected, 'Then What Happened' - black comedy at its finest, probably my favourite, 'An Orphans Tale' - I just didnt want this story of a 15yro old kidnapped girl to end, and last but not least, 'Mexican Standoff' right up there with the best about an excavation that leads to an ancient mating ritual and subsequent sacrifice, an action adventure romp.
Overall this is probably the best collection of short stories I've read on the kindle - right up there with Julie Morrigan's 'Gone Bad' and Dave White's 'More Sinned Against'. 5 stars and definite re-read appeal. (less)
Chris Holm does horror well; I only wish this collection had more. The crime stories, while enjoyable didn’t quite hit the high not...moreMy Rating: 3 Stars
Chris Holm does horror well; I only wish this collection had more. The crime stories, while enjoyable didn’t quite hit the high notes of his darker pieces. Below is a recap of the stories which comprise ‘8 Pounds’.
Seven Days of Rain – an old man is forced to own up to a past sin when a body in a barrel surfaces many years after the fact. Cold, dark, and damp crime finished off with perfect symmetry.
A Better Life – a creepy rendition of a vermin infested old house by which incessant scratching and bumps in the night allude to the supernatural.
A Simple Kindness – run of the mill blockbuster blackmail piece where a man’s head is overshadowed by his heart and instant attraction to a mysterious and seemingly distressed beauty. A pleasant twist and steady build up of lies forged on mislead perception.
The Toll Collectors – a well written salute to survival horror in which a hit man is confronted by his conquests along an abandoned highway flanked by dense woodland. Atmospheric and chilling.
8 Pounds – the title story is serviceable while not being overly captivating. A simple vendetta is realised with dire consequences with an underlying warning to all – cheaters get caught eventually.
The Well – short, sharp, and well executed. A young girl is felled by an hidden well and forced to eat anything that’s unfortunate enough to join her in the dusty depths – brutal and uncompromising despite its short length, one of the best in the collection.
The Big Score – an ode to fisherman noir, if you will, involving gun smuggling, mislead perception, deceit and murder.
The World Behind – victimised by a local bully, a boy seeks solace in nearby woods where he discovers Isaac, a former solider slightly mentally incapacitated. The two form a friendship ruined only by fire. Engrossing and not at what the surface leads the reader to believe.
Overall this is a solid collection and serves well as an introduction to a very talented author.(less)
This is a fantastic collection, made better by a great game to serve as a canvas for the authors to draw upon. 5 stars - a must read for fans of noir....moreThis is a fantastic collection, made better by a great game to serve as a canvas for the authors to draw upon. 5 stars - a must read for fans of noir.
1. THE GIRL by Megan Abbott - 5 stars
June is a once starry-eyed woman with glitter and golden dreams for elaborate promises and finer things. Hollywood as a lifestyle takes a turn to the obscene via overtly yet covertly sexualised activity. Abbott instils a sense of apprehension long lost and an easy innocence given way to manly pleasures for a glimpse at stardom. Similar feel to the novel THE SONG IS YOU.
2. SEE THE WOMAN by Lawrence Block - 5 stars
A beat-cop responds to multiple instances of domestic abuse only to be turned away by the victim. Eventually she is beaten so badly that one of the cops finishes the job as a mercy kill, putting to end a life of misery and bruises. Death, the only way sever the demonic ties the husband holds over her.
3. NAKED ANGEL by Joe. R. Lansdale - 5 stars
A femme-fatale’ ices a friendship in favour of running girls and keeping the clientele’s secrets hidden. Ali is a sly kitten quick to show her sharpened claws, of which a cop and former beau discovers the hard way – a bullet for his ambition, a grave for her.
4. BLACK DAHLIA & WHITE ROSE by Joyce Carol Oates - 3 stars
A transcript-style take on the Black Dahlia murder. Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Short and Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe are Hollywood glams at the centre of sexual innuendo and provocative prose. The format was hard to read but the story itself was enjoyable.
5. SCHOOL FOR MURDER by Francine Prose - 5 stars
A fledging actor takes a class learning ‘how to kill’ on screen which will assist him to perform the gruesome tasks in future movie roles. Scarred by an incident in the war, he sees the face of a man which unleashes the primal motivation to act out the scenes. Once he resumes filming post classes the urge to act consumes him with the result art imitating life…or should I say death…
6. WHAT’S IN A NAME? by Jonathan Santlofer - 5 stars
A man with a serious case of missing identity who was cast a poor hand at an early age having a whore for a mother who berated him for his feminine looks and distinct lack of masculinity. Unfortunately this upbringing causes death to many a female who come in contact with the murderous character as he tries to eradicate his past by murdering his mum time and time again. A particular highlight of this short story is the detached from reality male lead who seems to exist in a world entirely his own.
7. HELL OF AN AFFAIR by Duane Swierczynski - 5 stars
One of the best in the collection which could easily have been adapted into a full length novel such is the strength of the characters and interesting plot. A man has a swift con pulled on him by a beautiful and calculating Bonnie - a waitress whose sexual allure is as poignant as her criminality.
8. POSTWAR BOOM by Andrew Vachss - 5 stars
A tale of a hit that is initially driven by heavy dialogue before making way for action. Vachss writes a perfect and eerily mob-like execution carried out by a determined and violent individual. POSTWAR BOOM has one of those real shock moments with a doublecross I didn’t see coming. Brutal and truly cinematic – the epitome of noir. (less)
‘Ashes’ is a collection of 6 tales of horror packed with thrills and chills accompanied by a fantastic essay exploring horror as it is perceived withi...more‘Ashes’ is a collection of 6 tales of horror packed with thrills and chills accompanied by a fantastic essay exploring horror as it is perceived within the film and publishing industries. Written by Jonathan Maberry, this introduction spoke of the slow distillation of the genre by which slasher and thriller films/stories taint/dilute the brand and served as the perfect entree to the pure horror stories penned by Scott Nicholson. ‘Ashes’ kicks off with ‘Homecoming’ a spooky and heartfelt ghost story where a farmer’s son (along with other sprits) returns from the dead for one conversation. The next, ‘Haunted’ - surreal and suspenseful, full of dread and awkward wonder in which the inhabitants of a once burnt out home are haunted by the people who fell victim to the flames. ‘The Christening’ tells the short tale of abandoned mother to be in isolation both in geographically and emotionally who is haunted by an unusual spirit on a farm – so well defined and atmospheric that I could smell the drew on the cool grass amongst the farm backdrop. ‘She Climbs a Winding Stair’ is a ghost story (see the reoccurring theme here?) of a beauty lost at seas who comes ashore seeking souls to accompany her in the murky ocean depths. Set amongst a ghost story isolated on an inhibited island, this was by far the best story in the collection. Rounding out the collection ‘Must See to Appreciate’ is real-estate horror which throws in a moment of horror before an abrupt end, and ‘Three Dollar Corpse’ which, much like ‘…Winding Stair’ is a favourite of the collection set in a civil war prison camp where inmates make a living by burying the dead and scavenging their possessions. All in all a very solid collection sure to entertain and scare the reader just enough to keep things interesting – 3.5 stars. (less)
Kilborn doesn’t mince words, just body parts in this engrossing short story which picks up literally where Truck Stop left off. Donaldson’s god comple...moreKilborn doesn’t mince words, just body parts in this engrossing short story which picks up literally where Truck Stop left off. Donaldson’s god complex, thirst for blood and need for complete victim submission come to fore in Serial at the expense of a naive hitchhiker. Kilborn teams Donaldson with yet another antagonist with a fetish for the macabre whose drive is that of the more imposing serial killer yet far more unassuming. Expect terror at every turn of the road.
Serial delivers on its relentless pursuit to dissuade people of picking up hitchhikers – I will never look at charred meat on the BBQ the same again as I am sure to envision the vivid and overtly graphic scenes described in this story. Sublime yet sadistic and so satisfying – 5 stars.
I recommend reading 'Truck Stop' first to add context - my review below:
Truck Stop is a culmination of all that is evil and perverse. Perennial killers Taylor and Donaldson, two corrupt souls find solace in a demented embrace at a roadside tuck stop. The initial victim; a prostitute whose body is seen as little more than a piece of meat ripe for dismemberment and consumption before the predators set their sights on police officer Jack Daniels. However, you could say, they bit off more than they could chew in underestimating Daniels’ survival instinct and hardened police training. Truck Stop is a brief interlude into the Jack Daniels saga and a good entry point for those unfamiliar with the character. Not a word is wasted in this thriller that touches on our deep seeded fear of experiencing a kidnapping, forced cannibalism and slow death. 4 stars.
Speedloader showcases the latest neo-noir talent to emerge in recent times. Comprising of six short stories touching on topics from war memorials, der...moreSpeedloader showcases the latest neo-noir talent to emerge in recent times. Comprising of six short stories touching on topics from war memorials, deranged police officers, alcoholic obsessive delinquents, sex trafficking, drug addled journalism, and anti drug task forces this anthology is loaded with enough speed to keep you awake for days. Nigel Birds 'You Dirty Rat' is a nostalgic piece retelling the horrific journey of a soldier and his fallen comrade. 'Plastic Soldiers' by W.D. Country is nothing short of brilliant - with such a small window to capture the readers imagination, Country crafts a tale that's both gripping, heart wrenching and motivating all in a single beat as we watch 6 young boys try to live through their captivity whilst enduring unspeakable acts horror and misconduct. The collection continues to get better with 'Cuffs' by Matthew C. Funk in which a deranged cop frames an innocent man for the brutal murder of a woman - you want shock and awe? 'Cuffs' has it in abundance - a very well executed tale of all that is noir. 'Mori Obscura' by Nik Korpon sees a 'clean' journo end up at one of his former drug house haunts and forced to decided between relapse and redemption. Much like 'Cuffs' and 'Plastic Soldiers' before it, 'Mori Obscura' is packed with tension and beautifully defined characters and plot. The second to last story in 'Herniated Roots' by Richard Thomas was the only bump on an otherwise smooth road - I struggled to connect with the lead character and wasn't as compelled to read it as I was with the other stories - perhaps a testament to the quality of the others. Last but not least is quite possibly the best short story I've ever read in Jonathan Woods' brilliant 'Crash and Burn' about an ill fated attempt to bring down a Mexican drug plantation in operation Fig Leaf. Reminiscent of the movie 'Smoking Aces' in so much as it comprises a cast of crazies doomed for death and hellbent on destruction. Inclusive of bar room brawls, submission, military misconduct, Mexican drug cartels and promiscuous women 'Crash and Burn' is hands down the best of the best, the most engrossing and unrelenting blood pumping short story I've ever read. I hope Woods explores some of the great characters he created for 'Crash and Burn' further in a full length novel. Minor qualms aside (Herniated Roots) this is a very solid anthology by the future of neo-noir - jump on and enjoy the ride. 4.5 stars.(less)
A short story collection full of raw emotion and every day noir. While not as dark and twisted as other noir kindle collections, Nigel Bird's 'Dirty O...moreA short story collection full of raw emotion and every day noir. While not as dark and twisted as other noir kindle collections, Nigel Bird's 'Dirty Old Town' succeeds in its subtleness and emotionally charged characters. Existing within the boundaries of suburbia, this collection comprises tales of domesticated anti bliss (Drinking Wine), revenge fulled Muslims seeking retribution for the mistreatment of their women by Nazi-like Caucasians (Sisterhood), and ancillary school staff struggles (Taking a Line for a Walk) amongst others. The standouts, for me, include the humorous and twisted 'Merry Christmas', and the short but oh so sweet 'Silver Street' which would serve well as a full length in which a young pimp is had by his fiance in a most unexpected way. 'Dirty Old Town' is a quick fire dose of unassuming noir comprising a little something for everyone. That being said, I found there were a few too many stories that failed to connect and interest me in the same manner as the standouts mentioned. Overall, serviceable, easy to read and well worth a look. 2.5 Stars. (less)
This collection of short stories delves into the zombie sub genre from multiple points of view ranging from the zombies themselves, to those who hunt...moreThis collection of short stories delves into the zombie sub genre from multiple points of view ranging from the zombies themselves, to those who hunt them. While varied, the stories from the zombie POV are very similar insofar as the personality and thought processes mirror one another to the extent I though they were linked stories (they may well be though it didn’t come across that way). There are some standouts, with ‘Survivors’ by Joe McKinney reading more like an action romp than survival horror yet it manages to ooze heart amidst the gore infused backdrop. ‘The Meek’ by Scott Nicholson is probably the best of the collection where cannibalism runs rife in outback Australia and the order of the food chain is severely altered. ‘The Zombie Survival Scorecard’ by Jonathan Maberry goes to great length to diversify the dead by breaking down the types of zombies and their potential impact on the rate of human survival should such events occur – interesting and well written. ‘Murdermouth’ by Scott Nicholson is the best of the zombie POV’s and shows a more human aspect to the walking dead where the living could almost be considered the monsters. Overall this is a solid collection of zombie bits to wet the appetite for a full length.
The characters that populate the dilapidated landscapes of Rawson’s ‘The Chaos We Know’ are reminiscent of grit under a fingernail – unsightly, and so...moreThe characters that populate the dilapidated landscapes of Rawson’s ‘The Chaos We Know’ are reminiscent of grit under a fingernail – unsightly, and sometimes painful. Sure you can gnaw at it for a time but it can lead to frustration, a foul taste in the mouth, and a whole lot less fingernail leaving you prone to catching said nail (with the sensitive under-skin exposed) on clothing while getting dressed or performing any such menial activity to serve as a constant reminder that the grit was there and the hurt don’t stop simply ‘cos you extracted the visible. Yep, the characters of ‘The Chaos We Know’ are much like the proverbial grit though on a larger more fleshly scale - as analogies go, a more apt one fails me.
Comprising 22 stories of omnipresent oppression, this collection is the personification of noir. Rawson shelves all sense of nicety (the odd good deed pops up here and there re: ‘Ma’s Favourite Wife’) and elicits the darker nature of the human psyche - predominantly where lead characters are in a position of power (i.e law enforcement) as is evident in ‘Having His Cake’, and ‘The Blood, The Shattered Glass and All The Rest’. No one is safe, with treachery as rife as the burnt out prostitutes that loiter the blackened streets at night, ‘An Appointment with Larry’ attests to the sayng ‘trust no one’ while ‘My World Without Jenny’ merges the themes (treachery and prostitution).
Sure, this is dark, depressing, lifeless, and violent though survived by some crafty humour and snappy dialogue to lighten the mood. ‘Three Cops’ and ‘The Referral System’ come to mind as something sure to garner a laugh or two.
While most of the stories are memorable and enjoyable, the cream of the crop for me was ‘Life In Mesa’, ‘The Anniversary Weekend’, ‘Clinical Trail’, ‘A Clipjoint Romance’, ‘The Chaos We Know’, and the aforementioned ‘Three Cops’. A highly recommended collection sure to appease your inner thirst for ‘car wreck watching entertainment’ - 5 stars. (less)