Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Five You Can't Miss - Katherine Tomlinson

Katherine Tomlinson is the former editor of the beloved Dark Valentine Magazine and author of the splendid short fiction collection Toxic Reality. Here she is with five from 2011.

Five stories everyone should read plus two bonus stories.  (I know, that’s cheating.)

“The End of Our Zombie Days” by AJ Hayes published on Christopher Grant’s Eaten Alive site. This was an incredibly emotional, extremely potent story that was over in a flash but lingered. The ending is gut-wrenching.

“The Dead Roads” by D.W. Wilson doesn’t need to be hyped by me—it won a BBC award for the author, who’s a 26-year-old Canadian—but it was a fantastic story about sexual jealousy emerging on a road trip.  I originally read it on the Guardian site ( but it’s since been removed and included in Wilson’s debut fiction collection, Once You Break a Knuckle. Unfortunately, that book won’t be out until next April.

Brian Trent’s “Theseus Woman” appeared in the final issue of Dark Valentine Magazine, which is archived here. I had published a story by him called “Down Memory Line” last year that just blew me away. (Well worth checking out in the Winter 2010 issue of Dark Valentine Magazine, which also has a fantastic story by Dale Phillips called “Kamikaze Hipsters.”)

Col Bury’s “Suppertime,” also from the Eaten Alive site.\ This is an absolutely hilarious zombie story that is definitely not PC. The first line is priceless. I can’t wait to dive into his Manchester 6 collection.

“The End of the Night” by Eva Dolan on Shotgun Honey ( kicked ass. She just swept me up and brought me along for the (cab) ride. The story sent me in search of her other fiction and I really enjoyed “The Final Shot” on her own site:

I guess that’s actually eight stories….
Reading short fiction is like eating potato chips. You can’t eat just five.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Five You Can't Miss

Today kicks off Five You Can't Miss -- where writers and editors pick five excellent stories from 2011. First up is Christopher Grant, editor extraordinaire of A Twist of Noir and Eaten Alive (and a new project -- you'll have to read on to find out about that one). Grant is also a tremendous writer who I'm sure will be popping up on several people's lists.

Richard is always worth your time. In addition to be a hell of a friend, he's a hell of a writer, too. And who can't love a story that stars (numerous times) The Most Interesting Man In The World?

Just as with Richard, AJ's a hell of a friend and a hell of a writer. And this story, just fucking hilarious. Butch and Sundance in drag? Classic!

I pride myself on publishing some of the best noir/crime stories on the web. This one simply seared my eyebrows off. From top to bottom, and for my money, one of the best of the year. If Christopher Black continues to write like this, he's going to be a legend in no time.

If Christopher Black seared my eyebrows off, Katherine Tomlinson bashed my brains in with this one. I have no words for this other than Go Read Now!

5) And now for something completely different...
There are two versions of this story at Alternate Endings, my new site where nothing happens the same way twice. While I love the first version, I love the wordplay of the second even more. A nuclear holocaust and the last two sentences being: As Max left hospital he heard a screaming overhead. To him the burning buildings looked like Baked Alaskas.

Plus there's lots and lots of cake and who doesn't like cake?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Julia Madeleine has two excellent stories out now. "The Devil's Music" is the first story in her Raised in Hell series from Trestle Press.

Here we meet Sadie, the shape-shifting daughter of the Devil, who's hanging out at a Mississippi Delta blues club in the 1930s. Many fine musicians have sold their souls to her in exchange for their talents. Eventually they have to pay up to Sadie -- whether they like it or not.

But Madeleine takes this idea in a fresh direction -- maybe hell isn't so bad... In fact, maybe it's pretty cool and better than the alternative. This is an imaginative story with a very rich setting. Highly recommended.

Also, Madeleine has a scorcher over at Powder Burn Flash with "Crazy Town." It's a classic turn-the-tables-on-the-bullies story, but done with style, originality, and a sharp eye for detail.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Here's a project I'm very excited to be a part of: 38 writers, 38 stories all based on songs of our choice. The proceeds go to two children's literacy charities. All this thanks to the hard work of Luca Veste, who made all this possible.

Go forth and check out Off the Record today at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

AND the ever=resourceful Court Merrigan has assembled a playlist of all the songs on YouTube

Here's the lineup:

1.Neil White - Stairway To Heaven
2.Col Bury – Respect
3.Steve Mosby – God Moving Over The Face Of Waters
4.Les Edgerton - Small Change
5.Heath Lowrance - I Wanna Be Your Dog
6.AJ Hayes - Light My Fire
7.Sean Patrick Reardon - Redemption Song
8.Ian Ayris - Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
9.Nick Triplow - A New England
10.Charlie Wade - Sheila Take A Bow
11.Iain Rowan - Purple Haze
12.Thomas Pluck - Free Bird
13.Matthew C. Funk - Venus In Furs
14.R Thomas Brown - Dock Of The Bay
15.Chris Rhatigan – Shadowboxer
16.Patti Abbott - Roll Me Away
17.Chad Rhorbacher - I Wanna Be Sedated
18.Court Merrigan - Back In Black
19.Paul D. Brazill - Life On Mars?
20.Nick Boldock – Superstition
21.Vic Watson - Bye Bye Baby
22.Benoit Lelievre - Blood On The Dancefloor
23.Ron Earl Phillips - American Pie
24.Chris La Tray – Detroit Rock City
25.Nigel Bird - Super Trouper
26.Pete Sortwell – So Low, So High
27.Julie Morrigan - Behind Blue Eyes
28.David Barber – Paranoid
29.McDroll - Nights In White Satin
30.Cath Bore - Be My Baby
31.Eric Beetner - California Dreamin'
32.Steve Weddle - A Day In The Life
33.Darren Sant - Karma Police
34.Simon Logan - Smells Like Teen Spirit
35.Luca Veste - Comfortably Numb
36.Nick Quantrill - Death Or Glory
37.Helen FitzGerald - Two Little Boys
38.Ray Banks - God Only Knows

Friday, November 25, 2011

MONKEY JUSTICE by Patti Abbott

If you have even a passing interest in crime fiction, short stories or both, you need to go out and get Patti Abbott's Monkey Justice. It's only 99 cents this weekend. Crazy.

There's a tendency in modern crime writing to pare down character and setting to their essentials, and instead to focus on plot. Preferably plot with a lot of action.

Now I'll take this tendency any day of the week over bloated literary "stories" where nothing happens. But it's a double-edged sword -- strip away too much of that other stuff, and the writing loses some of its humanity.

This is just one of the ways Patti Abbott sets herself apart from the rest of the pack. Every story in here feels complete. At the end, you don't just know the protagonist, but you know at least one other character very well. The worlds they live in are believable and textured -- she simply knows what she's doing.

And every crime in each of these stories feels completely natural. She never introduces crime to move the story along -- it's just part of what these characters do. It's just one aspect of the story.

My favorite Abbott story is "Raising the Dead," which originally appeared in the now-defunct Back Alley. It's about how art (and success in art) can become an obsession. It's a suspenseful, gripping tale that depicts a character's evolution.

Several stories in Monkey Justice deal with abuse, and one of the most powerful stories she's written is "The Instruments of Their Desire," about old wounds that never healed. "Georgie" is also excellent, a heartbreaking piece told from the perspective of a child.

Before I got this collection I considered myself a big fan of Abbott's work. She has appeared in essentially every crime anthology worth reading in the last couple of years and in all the publications I read (Spinetingler, A Twist of Noir, Needle, Beat to a Pulp, All Due Respect, etc.).

And yet I'd only read three or four out of the 21 stories in here. Abbott is an amazingly productive and gifted writer, and this collection is testament to that fact.

Monday, November 21, 2011

D*CKED: Dark Fiction Inspired by Dick Cheney

Is there any figure in politics more mysterious than Dick Cheney? Seemed like from day one he was holed up in an "undisclosed location." From wherever that was, he ran the show for eight years and through god knows how many quadruple bypass surgeries. The man is definitely an enigma.

So I was interested to see what the writers for D*CKED (ed. Kieran Shea, Greg Bardsley and Jedidiah Ayres) would come up with, how they would represent America's own Murderous Cyborg.

No problem with imagination here -- Dick morphs from a superhero to an S&M junkie to a troll to a statue to a sex toy... all while sporting that trademark snarl.

This is a cracking collection of stories by reliable crime fiction authors all with a unique take on The Veep. I particularly liked Rachel Canon's "Neighborhood Watch." A down-on-his-luck Cheney makes a voyage to a dystopian suburb, meeting up with some badass soccer moms. I hadn't read any of Canon's work before but I will definitely be on the lookout in the future.

In Cameron Ashley's hilarious "Codename: Balladeer," a catchy pop song sweeps the nation... and then finds its real calling as a device to torture prisoners into divulging information. And you thought waterboarding was bad.

Kieran Shea's "Anne Gets a Ride" is yet another example of why he's one of the best writers in crime fiction today. He takes the bus device from Speed, adds in Cheney as a super hero, and tells the story from the perspective of a vapid California girl. Brilliant.

Plenty of other good ones in here from Ken Bruen, Steve Weddle, Jimmy Callaway, Patti Abbott, Hilary Davidson and many more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

DIG TEN GRAVES by Heath Lowrance

This here is a seriously impressive collection.

Lowrance writes the kind of stories that set up shop in your brain and rattle around in your chest. They're weird and crushing and true. They demand your attention.

He belongs in the same class as James Everington -- a first-rate writer of psychological horror.

Every story in here is a gem, but the first one, "It Will All Be Carried Away," slayed me. A suburban father's past shows up to haunt him. A girl he used to hook up with is dead and he becomes a bit obsessed with the details of her case. He starts remembering what he did to her -- and it's far more devastating than any harm you could cause with just a weapon. Lowrance expertly handles this non-linear narrative. A highly original and absorbing tale.

"Emancipation, With Teeth" is another favorite of mine. A work-a-day fellow is brushing his teeth when he notices something strange... something living inside him that will not be ignored. This is modern-alienation-turned-horror, a psychological problem with a physical manifestation.

It's actually difficult to talk about any single one of these stories. Lowrance has forged such a coherent collection that almost feels more like a novel. Similar themes keep popping up -- isolation, regret, human fragility, the illusion of security. Easily one of the top collections I've read in a long time. Check it out at Amazon.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

At Beat to a Pulp...

I'm thrilled to have the Weekly Punch over at Beat to a Pulp with "In the Hard Nowhere," a story about an average dude who tries to become a criminal. For some reason I really liked writing about this guy and I'm playing around with a sequel.

Huge thanks to editors David Cranmer and Scott Parker and all the folks at CrimeFicWriters for making this one ready for prime time.

New issue of Pulp Metal Magazine is out. Heath Lowrance has a cracker of weird fiction with "The World is Made of Candy." And be sure to check out Paul Brazill's interview with Julia Madeleine.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pulp Modern: Issue #1

From the first issue of Pulp Modern, it's clear that this publication is doing something that no one else is -- providing high-quality, developed stories in multiple genres (crime, fantasy and Western) and in print. Add in slick art work and this is simply the complete package.

Things get off to a rip-roaring start in Issue 1 with Lawrence Block's "Murder is My Business." For me, this story goes in the all-time greats category. A stripped down, mean slab of hardboiled goodness about a hitman who does no fucking around. It doesn't get any better than this.

Thomas Pluck's "Legacy of Brutality" is as devastating as the title would make it out to be. Denny is a character you can't help but admire -- through experience he's learned that you have to defend those you love. Others may dismiss him as just a mound of muscle, but it doesn't long for the reader to figure out he's much more than that.

Chris LaTray has an Indiana Jones-style adventure with "Romo Samson and the Grandmother Spider" that I thoroughly enjoyed. When an ancient artifact with mystical properties is swiped from a cave, Romo Samson has no choice but to chase it down. A tale of old-school, heart-pounding suspense.

Plenty of other smashing tales in here too from Edward Grainger, Sandra Seamans, David James Keaton, CJ Edwards, Jimmy Callaway and many more. I'm already looking forward to Issue 2.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Changes at Death by Killing

So we've got some changes here.

I finally added some pages to this here blog. At top, you'll find links to my stories and a little bio.

Also, I'm closing requests for reviews. I have simply not been able to keep up and, at this point, I probably have enough books to read well into next year.

Also, my original intention for Death by Killing was for it to be more of a reading journal than a review site (you know, despite what it says at the top...) and I'm trying to get back to that original vision.

Pulp Ink and Absolutely Kate

First off, I'm super thrilled to report that David Cranmer's gorgeous, twisted tale "Clouds in a Bunker" has been nominated for Best Short Story by Dead End Follies. He's in good company with Daniel Woodrell, Heath Lowrance and Frank Bill. Congrats, David!

Over At The Bijou, I'm up today with a very short story. I'm into this 100-word form lately and this is my latest effort. Also, fans of game theory might recognize this scenario...

Absolutely Kate is doing a splendid job with this "November Goes Noir," and when you pop over there, you should do yourself a favor and check stories by Graham Smith, Julie Morrigan, and Kevin Michaels, with many more to come.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Links: Julie Morrigan and Erin Cole

Julie Morrigan has two splendid pieces of classic noir over at Absolutely Kate's hangout. These snapshots of a PI go down smoother than a stiff drink and a smoke. All part of AK's November Noir series.

Erin Cole has two chilling and excellent stories out in the last week. Over at Thrillers, Killers, 'n Chillers, she's up with "Blood Truce." A couple's petty bickering takes a sudden, drastic and satisfying turn for the worst.

And she's got a vivid and haunting piece of psychological terror with "Ghosts Never Lie" at Microhorror.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

KICK IT by McDroll

When asked about what made him like a story or author, Paul D. Brazill once said that he needed to like the cut of their jib. As always, PDB boiled things down to their essence -- personality and style (for me at least) are trump cards.

That said, I challenge you to read Fiona Johnson (McDroll) and not like her. It's impossible! And it helps a great deal that she's put together a short, sharp collection of very readable crime stories oozing with personality.

In "Drowning," McDroll crafts a convincing story about a Support for Learning teacher who's under some serious stress. It's so convincing you'll completely understand why the teacher does something awful. That's crime writing at its finest -- showing exactly why a character would do something that no one in their right mind would do.

Cop Gemma Dixon figures into several of the pieces in here as well. She's at the bottom but willing to fight her way up the ladder. I particularly liked "The Red Glove," a nasty tale where Dixon gets to prove her mettle.

Go straight away and buy this delightful collection for only 99 cents! Amazon US and UK.

Pulp Ink at 200

I'm thrilled to report that Pulp Ink has now sold 200 copies.

I had no idea what to expect in terms of sales, so seems to me this is pretty good. We've been in and out of the top 100 for crime collections, bumping up against some big names.

(So I figure Nigel and I will be replacing Harlan Coben and Lee Child at the supermarket bookstand soon...)

Interestingly, e-book sales appear to work differently than print. Though we sold best in the first couple of weeks, sales have remained steady since then. We tend to sell a copy or two every day.

Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to review/promote Pulp Ink in any way. And, by the by, still just $2.99 for 24 stories of deviance and debauchery. US here and UK over here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

LIVERPOOL 5 by Luca Veste

Luca Veste's a new name around the crime fiction community and he has an entertaining collection of very short stories out now with Liverpool 5.

As you might guess from the title, his work is firmly rooted in Britain. One thing I've noticed about the British writers is that they're generally funnier than us Americans, and I dig Veste's sense of humor. My favorite piece in here is "Heavy Sleeper," a darkly funny tale about a guy who will sleep through just about everything. I can relate! "Peeling Spuds" is another strong entry about a woman who's tired of responding to her husband's demands.

Veste has a strong voice, what I'd call a storyteller's voice. Rather than working in scene -- in the moment -- his characters tend to be reflecting on what's happened to them. It feels like you've just sat down with these characters to have a conversation. Everything feels very natural.

Check out this new title from Trestle Press at Amazon US (99 cents) and UK (86 pence).