Monday, February 11, 2013

Five You Can't Miss -- Erik Arneson

The Chemistrator: Drug City, U.S.A. by Calvin Beauclerc, discovered by Rob Kroese. (Blood & Tacos #3)

I love Blood & Tacos, a magazine that pays homage to the 1970s and 1980s, the heyday of adventure paperbacks. The writing in Blood & Tacos is purposely and brilliantly campy, and the stories are uniformly entertaining. Drug City, U.S.A., featuring a character known as The Chemistrator, makes my list because of passages like this: “Dax closed his eyes and reflected on how things had gotten so out of control. There wasn’t any moment he could pinpoint, however. It had been a gradual process. He probably shouldn’t have started selling drugs, though. That was definitely a mistake.”

Victor Viral by Hugh Lessig (NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir, Fall/Winter 2012)

In my day job, I work for a politician, so I’m a sucker for a good political story. Victor Viral is a great political story about a campaign consultant working for a state senator. Both of the consultant and the candidate operate far south of ethical, and bad things happen when their unethical worlds collide.

If I Ever Get Off This Mountain by Brian Panowich (Shotgun Honey)

This piece of rural noir (“I’ve got dead brothers in six counties all over North Georgia and Tennessee.”) is excellent on its own. But it really shines when read together with Panowich’s companion piece, Coming Down the Mountain at Out of the Gutter Online’s The Flash Fiction Offensive. Both stories tell the same tale from different perspectives, and the result is tremendous.

The Postman Always Rings Twice by Claire McGowan (Off the Record 2: At the Movies)

McGowan’s contribution to this charity anthology is the terrifying tale of a woman who moves into a new house and is tormented by the (figurative) ghost of a previous resident. The terror builds steadily throughout the story and, best of all, it doesn’t let up at the end.

The Neon Come-On by Eric Beetner (Atomic Noir)

This is a classic noir tale: A clerk at a rundown hotel in the middle of nowhere can’t help himself when he finds a cooler full of cash, despite the fact that the cooler is in a room with a corpse and the obvious smart thing to do would be leave and call the cops. Needless to say, things go poorly. And nobody writes about things going poorly better than Beetner.

The Innocent Man by Pamela Colloff (Texas Monthly)

I’m going to bend Chris’s rules just a little to tip my hat to the best non-fiction article I read in 2012. Michael Morton, convicted of murdering his wife in Williamson County, Texas, is the titular innocent man. His story is a frightening look at how the justice system can go horribly wrong when the police and prosecutors -- through incompetence, conspiracy, or a mixture of the two -- don’t do a good job. Here are part one and part two of Colloff’s article. (It looks as though part one now requires free registration, and part two will probably go that route as well. It’s worth it.)

Erik Arneson’s stories have appeared at Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle, as well as in NEEDLE and Off the Record 2: At the Movies. He also has a story in Otto Penzler’s upcoming Kwik Krimes anthology. He blogs at and tweets @erikarneson.

1 comment:

  1. As of Feb. 12, it looks like Texas Monthly is making both parts of Colloff's article completely free again:

    Part 1:

    Part 2: