Sunday, December 5, 2010

Top Five for 2010: Michael Solender

I’m very excited to have Michael Solender weigh in with his picks. He’s a class act, runs the blog, Not From Here, Are You?, and has written some noir classics himself this year (links below). So, without further ado…

Five Noir Classics for 2010
By Michael J. Solender

Like 1990 was for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 has proven to be a perfectly balanced and vintage year for intricately woven tales of crime, noir and the darkest underbelly of human depravity. This past year has seen a surge in noirish micro-flash due in no small part to the burgeoning number of quality venues today’s authors have to choose from.

It goes without saying that favorite lists are fraught with limitations and peril. Who amongst us can choose the best of any number of outstanding works? Suffice it to say that the lover of all things dark and noirish could easily find several fine stories daily over the entire year to slake his thirst for the seamy. Choosing but a handful will no doubt leave some very exquisite stories out of immediate, though deserved mention. For this fact I am truly chagrinned.

Rather than enter the best of fray, I’ll share with you five outstanding writes that I found particularly engaging this past year. Each is a shiny bagatelle, perfect in their crafting, commonality only in their excellent telling and graceful economy of words.

Here are five 2010 noir stories well worth seeking out.

·        Walt Conley’s Disenthralled Issue #6 released in March of 2010 and packed a wallop. No less than ten distinct noir works greeted an eagerly awaiting crowd. Heavyweights P.D. Brazill and Rob Crisman had features as did yours truly, but the star of that show was a tale entitled Silver Winter, by Bruce Brown.

Brown’s revenge saga takes an unsentimental and dejected husband to the brink, then over in dealing with his emotions and life partner, all from the barrel of a gun he proclaims to hate. Thick and muddy, Silver Winter is rich with vitriol saved only for those who betray the deepest level of trust. Brown is crackling with fiery narrative and lush prose that leaves the reader with just the right taste in conclusion.

·        Chris Deal is the real deal, I can tell you that. The guy lives less than an hour away and we haven’t yet connected but will soon over a cold one I hope. Christopher Grant at the venerable A Twist Of Noir turned me onto Chris and told me I HAD to read Still LifeChris’ debut piece at ATON.

I did and to say it rocked my world is an understatement. Deal uses only four paragraphs to create a noir tour-de-force that is starkly haunting and creates an ache in your gut. Lovely atmosphere and deft phrasing in this piece immediately put Deal on the map as one to be watched.

·        Cheap Bastard by Hillary Davidson is pulpy noir at its finest. Real, tough and imaginative dialog, a great plot and pitch perfect voice lead to a payoff that is imminently satisfying. At Spinetingler, this brilliant work gets better every time I read it.

·        My pal Lee Hughes came alive in 2010 with some incredible writes, especially early in the year. He must have been inspired having been made an editor over at the stonkingly grand Thrillers Killers ‘N’ Chillers site along with his pals Matt Hilton and Col Bury.

It was a recent piece of his however that really grabbed me and didn’t let go. Stage Left over at ATON’s 600-700 challenge is a textbook example of storytelling at its finest. Lee doesn’t have one word too many in this compact, biting character study. A lovely plot with outsized characters and authentic detail, this piece simply sings.

·        I was not familiar with Jane Hammons until I noticed her work at Fictionaut where she launched the Noir group. Whoa! You would expect tight writing from a writing professor at Berkley and that is exactly what you get with Jane’s work which I find pure joy to read.

The Corners featured earlier at ATON is so masterfully crafted, so twisted and so surprising it will haunt you for days after you read it. I’ll break my rule from above and call this piece my absolute favorite for 2010, it is that good. Don’t get lulled by the bleak and dreary beginnings, the rage unleashed at the conclusion of this piece will shell you.

So sit back, crack a bottle and settle in for some of the finest flash on the planet. Here’s to the new year!

Michael J. Solender is the author of the short story and poetry chapbook, Last Winter’s Leaves, published by Full of Crow Press. His essay, Unaffiliated, is featured in the newly released anthology, Topograph: New Writings From The Carolinas and  Landscape Beyond, published by Novello Festival Press. His noir thriller, Seventy-two Hours or Less is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2010. Solender’s work is found at and his blog, NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?


  1. Excellent list. I'd read 'em all and agree completely. Well, hadn't read Silver Winter until you put it here. So, I zipped right over and read it on the spot -- killer piece. And that's the best part of Chris' lists. They take us places we'd forgotten or hadn't had a chance to read. Nice job,Michael. And , Chris, another winner.

  2. "The Corners" struck me as top-shelf when I first read it. I think Chris Grant described it as quiet noir, which I thought was an apt description.

    I also missed Silver Winter--damn that's a ball-buster of a piece. Definitely a noir classic.

    Thanks for playing, Michael.

  3. i freel refreshingly out of touch in some respects - the down side being that i'm out of touch, the up that i have some great work to read.

  4. Michael--Thanks so much for writing about The Corners. I'm really flattered. By the way, my mother absolutely hates that story . . . can't imagine why :) And for the list in general, thanks. Like Nigel, I have some catching up to do!

    And thanks also to Chris. I really loved that Christopher Grant called it "quiet noir." I had submitted that story a while back to a mag requesting noir and was told that it wasn't. Hmmm wonder where that editor is now . . .

  5. Jane,

    I think there are too many people that put noir into a little box and set the parameters so narrowly that they don't even know what it is when they see it.

    To some people, noir will never be anything except detectives and black widow women.

    And that's fine but it can't just keep repeating itself or it ceases to be noir and becomes boring.

    THE CORNERS is noir precisely because it ain't your mother's favorite story. And it shouldn't be. THE CORNERS is a nasty story but it goes about itself as if this life is just how it is.

    And that's what makes it noir, too.

    It's really too bad that more people can't go into reading and/or writing noir with an open mind and/or a blank slate but, hey, we got a nice little group that knows what's good and what's not, right? And that's really all we need.