So there's a whole bunch of killer stuff in the new anthology Beat to a Pulp: Round One--including some great work by a lot of my favorite authors lie Patti Abbott, Chris F. Holm, Kieran Shea, and Charles Ardai. (Naomi Johnson has a good review here.)
Round 1 kicks off with Maker's and Coke by Jake Hinkson--a writer I hadn't heard of before checking out this story. And, wow, what a way to open. This profoundly unsettling story knocked me on my ass. The main character, a recently divorced cop-turned-alcoholic, comes fully to life in this piece. His loneliness and hopelessness feel very real. Take this passage:
Once I though about it, I realized no one else loved me, either. I sat there and considered it. There was no one left on this earth who loved me. That wasn't self-pity; it was match. My world had gotten smaller and smaller, year by year, and now that Ellie was gone, it was a world of just me.
Jesus Christ, that's chilling.
In a story where other writers might have let their main character remain passive, Hinkson throws him into a shitstorm. He's behind a gas station in his car trying to numb his feelings when two guys try to rob the place. His alcoholism comes to bite him right in the ass--as he's scrambling to stop this crime in progress, he spills his drink all over himself and accidentally discharges his gun into the roof of his patrol car. Genius stuff. Just one fantastic entry in an epic collection.