There’s a loose “neighborhood” of writers that seem to come together, rather organically, to work on shared projects over and over again. First, there...moreThere’s a loose “neighborhood” of writers that seem to come together, rather organically, to work on shared projects over and over again. First, there was The Velvet, an online forum that brought together many bourgeoning writers with tastes for the noir, lushly descriptive, crime story. Relationships formed. That—still evolving—group then went on to be (and concurrently were) involved in projects like the Warmed and Bound anthology, The Velvet Podcast, and Manarchy Magazine. Other simultaneously evolving neighborhoods bred with The Velvet (Thunderdome, The Booked Podcast) until a solid, often unified, though rarely dignified, group of creators…well, just kept creating. There’s never been a single mantra. Never a single project. There’s just the many products seem immaculately conceived. The Booked. Anthology is one of those projects.
There are so many writers in here whose stories I always anticipate. I won’t name them all, as it would basically be a verbatim transcript of the table of contents. Rather, I’ll mention a few writers I was either unfamiliar or not very familiar with prior to reading The Booked. Anthology.
Mark Rapacz – I heard Mark read a few years ago at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago. His first novel, Buffalo Bill in the Gallery of the Machines: an Unbiased Historical Account, was just released by Burnt Bridge books. Me, not being a fan of Western books (nor being a fan of live readings, really; I don’t have the attention span for audio stories) unfairly considered Mark “just another of the night’s readers.” But his The Booked. Anthology story, “Manager Dog,” stands out as a great example of a writer’s confidence (re: readability) bringing life to a story.
Also, well, crap, actually I’m pretty familiar with everyone else in this anthology. So, I guess Mark gets all of the fame in this review. Definitely pick up the anthology. These are all NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED stories by some of the best storytellers around. If you’re in to noir, slipstream, dystopian, and sometimes just plain weird, you’ll like this book.
(disclosure: my story, “The Removal Kind,” appears in The Booked. Anthology)(less)
Tanzer has a way of describing innocent sexual tension like nobody I've ever read. If this were an autobiography, I would think of Tanzer as a guy who...moreTanzer has a way of describing innocent sexual tension like nobody I've ever read. If this were an autobiography, I would think of Tanzer as a guy who has a lot of female friends, is physically attracted to them, but must maintain that he is not in order to keep his marriage together.
For the record, as far as I know, this is not an autobiographical collection.(less)
Those who know Nik Korpon’s work, know that he has a smoothness of language and polished confidence with his writing that even many veterans haven’t a...moreThose who know Nik Korpon’s work, know that he has a smoothness of language and polished confidence with his writing that even many veterans haven’t achieved. He’s something special. When you read something from Nik Korpon you’re reading for mind and soul in the truest sense of the words.
With By the Nails of the Warpriest, Nik takes a bit a detour from his Baltimore noir roots and delivers something a bit darker, a bit more sci-fi, perhaps something Cormac McCarthy would write if he were subjected to a cycle of 12 Monkeys viewings projected on the wall of a condemned Baltimore row house with a group of vagabond squatters.(less)
With Man Standing Behind, Pablo D’Stair completes his set of thematically linked “existential noir” novellas, collectively called They Say the Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter.
As with most of D’Stair’s work, plot has been loosened in favor of the conflicted protagonist’s internal dilemmas. In the case of Man Standing Behind, the loose plot involves our central character, Roger, being held at gun-point by Donald, a patient, self-assured (or so we assume) murderer with unknown motivations. Donald leads Roger throughout their small, nondescript town, killing people with nonchalance that in any other author’s hands might define Donald as a soulless psychopath. And though he may be a psychopath we learn that the killer is perhaps just as confused by his actions as both Roger and the reader. The novella therefore reads as a meandering (purposefully) series of mental struggles, attempts to rationalize escape (“Not that I could leave, certainly”),to rationalize survival (“I didn’t want to give him any reason to think I might be trying something”), and to rationalize motivation (“There was very much the impulse to…bring attention to my situation. But what was my situation?”).
The keyword being, of course, rationalize.
This is where D’Stair shines. He has the ability to take a situation, one which might traditionally be addressed emotionally, and analyze it to the point of emotional emptiness. Life and death, to D’Stair’s narrators, is not a fight or flight, subconscious decision, but is one to be pondered, examined, weighed against context. In the first novella of the collection, Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate, we are privy to the killer’s (a different killer than Man Standing Behind) self-examination. Next, with i poisoned you, the narrator wedges his logic into the illogic of love. Then, with Twelve ELEVEN Thirteen, a man is consumed by his attempts to rationalize the appearance of a stranger in his apartment building hallway.
Man Standing Behind acts as a logical extension to the previous three novellas, building upon the self-reflection that saturated those books while allowing the narrator to, for perhaps the first time in the series, project upon the world outside himself. One key statement, on page 57, summarizes this book, and the entire series, beautifully:
“I looked at him, felt dead.”
Man Standing Behind is essentially a story of limbo, of a man once alive, now somewhere between life and death. But more importantly, this is a man conscious of his position.(less)