Sunday, February 27, 2011


The always cool Patti Abbott came up with a great idea for a flash fiction challenge--all you have to do is incorporate the line "I really don't mind the scars."

Here are two top-notch entries I read today from Kieran Shea and Katherine Tomlinson. Check 'em out!

And now Patti has links up to all the stories.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

To escape or not to escape

In the introduction to his excellent collection of hard-hitting crime fiction, Ultra-Boiled, Gary Lovisi wrote the following:

The world is a cruel place, but for the hard-boiled hero (and the writer and reader by extension), it's far crueler than anyone can ever imagine. And that's part of the real story most people who do not read hard-boiled fiction do not want to face. Escape is, after all, so much more pleasant. And comforting. And easy. It can be so . . . cozy. And all the answers are laid out for you at the end. What could be nicer? Well, folks, that ain't the way it is with authentic hard-boiled material. Oh, you might get a tidy answer at the end of the story, but if you do, there'll be little comfort in it, I can assure you.

Though I have nothing but respect for Lovisi and the hard-boiled/noir genres, I disagree with him on this. I like escapist fiction--Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, Christopher Moore, Janet Evanovich. Books that are more like a roller coaster ride--pure entertainment. That's what got me into genre fiction in the first place. 

And I don't know if one can make such a distinction between escape and (for lack of a better term) not escape. Take Elmore Leonard. His books are immensely entertaining and a great escape from the monotony of the real world, but he definitely comes out of the dark crime fiction tradition. Or Robert B. Parker--who definitely lands somewhere in between, especially with his later books.

Though I might be misinterpreting Lovisi's point. Perhaps the reason he (and a lot of other people) are tired of escapist fiction is because there's so much of it printed. Seems like most of the big publishing houses have room for nothing else. 

The nasty stuff is relegated to the internet and the small presses, gets pushed underground. The hardboiled material (mostly) doesn't draw the attention or net the sales like Lilian Jackson Braun's next cat-solvin'-a-mystery will.

What do you all think? Are escapist books a bunch of pansy bullshit and we should stick to our noir guns?

Friday, February 18, 2011


I'm a bit late on this one, but All Due Respect's February edition is top notch.

Mark Joseph Kiewlak has a taught, suspenseful tale up in Slay Ride

He cuts right to the heart of the action--an investigator and the child he's been hired to find have been kidnapped by two nasty dudes who are taking them to god knows where.

This is a truly electric piece. I found myself racing toward the end to find out what happened, then racing back to see how he did it and relish each line of punchy dialogue.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Some very fine material in the Valentine's Day edition of Yellow Mama.

AJ Hayes ventures forth into Werewolf poetry with the elegant A Moon Like Tarnished Silver.

Richard Godwin continues his reign of terror with Shopping Addict. Not too many people writing cold-blooded sociopaths than Mr. Godwin.

The factory waits for no man in Ian Ayris's Chained. This is vintage Ian--grimy, working-class characters in a pitch-black world. Also, really creepy art from Lonni Lees to accompany this piece.

And Cindy Rosmus takes us to the world's most dangerous hair salon in The Hot Seat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Nigel Bird's new collection of short stories is gritty, nasty, and smooth.

I bought the collection based on the excellent work of his I've read in the past--and I'm even more impressed after reading it. 

One of my favorites is the title story, one of the best revenge tales I've read in a long time. A youth gymnastics coach discovers his athletes are on performance-enhancing drugs when one of them overdoses. The coach hatches a plan to get back at the drug dealer. It's a complex story that asks how far the coach will go to be loyal to his players. The final scene is gruesome and riveting.

Another winner is Three Little Birds, an engaging piece about what happens when the kid who gets bullied grows up. I love how the plot arises from conflict between these very genuine characters. 

In fact, I could say that about any of the pieces in this compilation. If you're a fan of dark crime fiction with real characters, Dirty Old Town is a great find--99 cents on Smashwords or for your Kindle.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My first negative review

... is up at Spinetingler and it's on a Joyce Carol Oates story.

While you're there, check out a very interesting and honest interview with Nigel Bird on his experience with e-publishing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 5: Art by Richard Godwin

Art by Richard Godwin at Gloom Cupboard

I'd been playing around with the idea of writing an art-meets-crime story. Until I read this one.

Successful artist Bernie decides to go in a different direction and paint landscapes. His agent, a really delightful chap, calls his new work a piece of shit. Lucky for Bernie, he has a winning idea up his sleeve.

Gleefully sadistic and sharp, this is one of Godwin's finest. He's had a rather good year, with his new novel, Apostle Rising due out in March.

And he's got The Weekly Punch over at Beat to A Pulp with a brilliant, viscous tale titled Mercy Street

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Thrillers, Killers 'n Chillers

Making my debut at TKnC with a story involving two guys, winter, a sledgehammer, and a jewelry store robbery.

A winning combination? You decide.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Two New Things

So I've been a bit MIA lately. Mostly cause school is kicking my ass again. Also cause I reviewed a Joyce Carol Oates story from her new collection for Spinetingler Magazine, a task which proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be.

Anyways, first-rate writer and all-around class act Nigel Bird has released a collection of his short stories titled Dirty Old Town. Nigel is a consistent, imaginative, hard-working craftsman, who had a fantastic 2010, with stories in Beat to a Pulp, Needle, A Twist of Noir and other dens of inequity. (Around here, dens of inequity are a good thing.) It's only 99 cents at Smashwords and Amazon. I just downloaded a copy and look forward to devouring it.

And there's a new game in town, Pulp Carnivale. They've printed several excellent flash pieces since hitting the virtual streets last week, including Twenty-One Margoyles Street by Ian Ayris and Friday Night Fun by Charlie Wade. They're also seeking submissions in multiple genres, so check it out!