Friday, December 30, 2011

The Out of Bullets Contest

Pablo D'Stair issued a challenge. And the writers of crime fiction accepted said challenge...

D'Stair, because he's an arrogant prick,* said he could write a better collection of flash fiction in a mere eight hours than a group of other writers could in an unlimited amount of time. 

In fact, he was so certain of this, that he put $225 of his own money on the line.

Myself and thirteen other crime writers took him up on this challenge. Over at his site, you can download the D'Stair collection and the challengers collection for free. (Both collections are anonymous.) 

The readers decide which collection is best and then vote on the winner. 

If D'Stair loses, then the prize money is split among the challengers. If he wins, he gets to keep being a miserable, holier-than-thou piece of shit.**

Usually I would feel pretty confident, but D'Stair wrote the Trevor English series so we'll probably get our asses kicked.

* I <3 D'Stair.
** I was serious about that emoticon. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pulp Modern: Issue #2

"It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood." -- Jerome K. Jerome

A fitting quote for the Christmas issue of Pulp Modern. (And don't you just love that cover?)

A lot of fantastic fiction in these pages, including a hilarious ghost story from Mr. Jerome, a British writer who worked in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. As with the first issue, there's a solid blend of crime, fantasy, horror, and western.

William Dylan Powell is writing consistently excellent stories, and he's got a nasty, straight-forward crime tale with "Ball and Chain." Shannon Price is enslaved to her asshole biker boyfriend, a fact she's determined to change. But change always comes at a price, doesn't it?

"Punishment and Crime" by Leland Neville is refreshingly different and (if you didn't already get this from the title...) turns the genre on its head. I'd never heard of Neville before, but I'll definitely be looking for his work in the future. This is a darkly funny story about an unlikely criminal that you won't soon forget.

JC Hemphill has a sharp fantasy/horror story with "The Void." Kirby and his frat boy friends wake up to discover a seemingly bottomless hole in the cement floor of the garage. Of course, the hole likes to eat people, but the real story is about Kirby and his disaster of a life.

I don't really know what to say about David James Keaton's "Three Ways Without Water (Or, The Day Roadkill, Drunk Driving, and the Electric Chair Were Invented)," other than that it's an apocalyptic western and you should read it. A truly strange and dizzying ride.

Many other very strong stories in here. John Kenyon has a trippy ride through the Southwest in "Gusano Gigante." Patti Abbott is masterful as ever with "Tidy," the story of a doctor with a bad habit who gets in way over his head. Overall, a great issue that you can check out at Amazon and CreateSpace.

Five You Can't Miss: Naomi Johnson

Naomi Johnson runs the delightful blog The Drowning Machine, where she attempts to stay afloat in an ocean of books. She's also a top writer, with work at A Twist of Noir and one in Pulp Ink that's one of the funniest stories I've read. Very pleased to have her here today talking short fiction...

Here are five you can't miss. Mustn't miss. And shame on you if you do.

The Perfect Day by Patricia Abbott (All Due Respect) - A day at the beach for a uniquely dysfunctional family goes just about as well as any of their days can go. At least until they arrive home. This story has a disturbing quality to it, reminiscent of the best of Flannery O'Connor. All of Abbott's short stories are worth the reading, in fact, as she comes at her characters from unexpected angles and never sinks to the predictable.

Massacre Canyon by Wayne D. Dundee (Beat to a Pulp) - This was published last January, so some people may have forgotten it, but they shouldn't. This is a great action tale about a wounded bounty hunter who is stranded outdoors in a blizzard. And the blizzard just might be the least of his worries. 

6/8 by Trey R. Barker (Shotgun Honey) - Here's what Sandra Seamans, no mean purveyor of short fiction herself, had to say about this tale of spurned love set to a jazz soundtrack: "Sometimes you read a story and want to throw everything you've ever written in the trash, knowing that you can't make the words dance like the writer you've just read." The voice and flow of 6/8 is like nothing else I've ever read. 

Through the Valley of the Shadow of Roosevelt's Nose
 by Craig McDonald (Crime Factory: The First Shift) - McDonald does a fine rif on Flannery O'Connor's most famous short story, with McDonald's own Hector Lassiter at the center of the action. Toss in references to one of Hitchcock's better films, North by Northwest, and once again, McDonald makes magic for the reader.

Plastic Soldiers by W.D. County (Speedloader) - County may not be the most prolific of writers, but he makes certain each story is a perfect gem. Here he presents a 
tale of stark courage about a boy who, enduring horrific circumstances, receives inspiration and guidance from the toy soldiers in his pocket. I can't say more except that this is a brilliantly moving story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Eva Dolan

Eva Dolan writes very sharp reviews at her blog, Loitering with Intent. Her story, The End Of The Night, has made several top five lists. I'm pleased to have her today with five stories from 2011.

Gerard Brennan’s new novella Wee Rockets is burning a hole in my Kindle right now, but I first became aware of his work through a piece he did at Pulp Pusher back in July.  Nothing But Time is brutal and claustrophobic, exactly what you want from a prison story, and fair drips with menace.  Brennan has a very engaging voice, a keen eye for character and his dialogue bangs.  Think he’s going to do big things.    

Heath Lowrance’s work induces fangirl levels of admiration in me since reading Dig Ten Graves earlier in the year.  Gun to my head, just pick one story - Incident on a Rain-Soaked Corner edges it.  It’s atmospheric and surreal, has that Kafka-esque thing you see in a lot of Lowrance’s short fiction, and the writing is first class.    

I love a good punch-up and Kent Gowran delivers a great one in Sea Legs, over at Pulp Metal Mag.  At lot of violence in crime fiction is meaningful, even if the meaning is kind of stupid, but Gowran understands the drive friends have to knock the shit out of each other sometimes, just because.  Fight scenes are tough to get right and this one’s skillfully handled, got that pace and snap but with a bit of drag, just like a real brawl.  About time he wrote a novel really.   

Steve Weddle’s A Day in the Life is a brand new piece, from Luca Veste's charity e-book Off The Record, and it really stood out among the carnage and general bastardry of the collection.  It’s a beautifully balanced story about loss, set in that strange, jet-laggish period when you know the death is coming but can’t do anything.  Powerful, sparely written genius.      

Finishing on a lighter note; Cameron Ashley’s Everything Works Out for Once at Shotgun Honey.  Funny and nicely observed; I loved how Ashley skewered the Italian machismo cliché.  The characters are strong and one of them apparently looks like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.  Sold. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Jane Hammons

Jane Hammons is a seriously talented writer who pops up at places like A Twist of Noir and Shotgun Honey. She won a Derringer Award last year and she joins DBK today with five stories from this last year...

Sea Shepherds, Matthew Funk 
Pulp Metal Magazine, 02-05-11
The opening line--"In her first Gulf shore night’s dream, her womb held an ocean"--held me in its grip and never let go. Sticky wet erotic deadly: what more do you want? If I have to experience death by monster, give me the Deep One. 

The Perfect Day, Patricia Abbott 
All Due Respect, August 14, 2011
I have a love-hate relationship with stories about children in danger. I always want to rescue them and know I can't. The realism of this story is deadly, the children perfectly drawn. The way I felt when I finished reading lingered with me for a long time.

The World Is Made of Candy, Heath Lowrance 
Pulp Metal Magazine, 11-12-11
A psycho blend of Shirley Jackson and Kurt Vonnegut. It is relentless. It reads like an anxiety attack.

There is A Lake in A Wood, Ian Ayris 
Powder Burn Flash, 02-07-11
The music of this (and I don't mean the Banana Splits ringtone) is hypnotic. It's a story as much about the atmosphere Ian creates as it is about the crime.

Heat of Passion, Kathleen A. Ryan
A Twist of Noir, 02-14-11
The dialog in this story snaps and sizzles; the plot twists. And there's a "bimbo-basement dilemma" you should be aware of. A great "cop" story.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Luca Veste

Luca Veste arrived with a splash on the crime scene this year, editing the anthology Off the Record and releasing two short story collection himself. His blog, Guilty Conscience, is a great resource for the crime writing community. Here are his five from the last year...

5. Gun by Ray Banks - My first experience of Banks was reading this novella. It's an almost perfect novella, an excellent story, that wouldn't work at any length. And now I'm hooked on Banks!

4. Forum of Fury by Col Bury(Manchester 6) - An excellent little tale, from a writer that has so much more to say. The growing tension throughout is superbly paid off with the twist at the end.

3. The End Of The Night by EvaDolan - This story will grab you by balls and squeeze until you're blue. And then you'll go back for more. Outstanding short.

2. Broken Play by Matthew C Funk - I'd actually gone for a different story by Matt, and then this one came along as a latecomer and blew me away. The hairs on my arms and neck were on end throughout whilst reading this one. Absolutely incredible story. 

1. The Argument Bunny by Ian Ayris(Laughing at the Death Grin) - An incredible short story. Ayris packs so much into such a short amount of space, it was astounding. A story that has stayed with me since reading.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Matthew C. Funk

Matthew C. Funk writes about all of human experience through the prism of New Orleans. He's appeared on many a top five list here and will appear on many more. For those of you who are not hip to him, go check out his web site.

#5 Junkyard Dog by Thomas Pluck (Plots With Guns)
Keeping you in the action while transcending time and place, JUNKYARD DOG assembles a complete character from a scattered history of violence. The worse it gets, the more you care. And Thomas Pluck knows how to make it get real damn bad.

#4 In A Lonely Place by Pete Risley (Pulp Metal Magazine)
Nobody does wretched like Risley. His stories ooze with the septic common vein of pity and pathos that binds us all. They're never pleasant and always so pithy that they can't be missed. In A Lonely Place is among his finest, pushing us into the excruciating condition of the victim of a random crime and letting us steep in one of the most sophisticated broths of fear I've ever had the displeasure of reading.

#3 Films Made Me Do It by Sam Duda (Sex And Murder)
It is a brilliant time for connoisseurs of the mad mind. The internet gives voice to dementia shuttered into the dungeons by the ivory tower of publication. As Films Made Me Do It reveals, Sam Duda is one of insanity's finest composers. With a musical cadence and a schizoid lilt, his prose leads us down a murder plot's path, but through the poison garden of a lunatic's outlook. Faulkner could hardly have done it as beautifully, and could not have done it so crazy.

#2 Food Is Other People by Jimmy Callaway (Eaten Alive)
This is zombie fiction by way of Callaway, meaning it cuts cleanly to the bone with some of the sharpest street prose online today. With his usual enthralling voice, Jimmy Callaway uses the flesh-eater motif to disembowel the soul of his hero. Food Is Other People delivers a message worthy of its title, illustrating the social ecology that finds human beings devouring one another - emotionally, professionally, socially - on an everyday basis.

#1 Deguello by William Dylan Powell (Needle Magazine)
William Dylan Powell is the foremost unsung find of 2011 - an author whose work always hits me on the nose, slaps me on the back and shares a wink with me. Deguello, his debut in Needle Magazine, showcases all the ways that Powell is at the top of his game: A solid, salty crime genre plot; robust characters; marvelous detail; impressario emotional notes; and explosive, high-octane prose. He is one to watch, and Deguello was a captivating first look at him.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Darren Sant

Darren Sant is a newcomer to the crime scene and an all-around good bloke. He is a sharp writer who has penned the Longcraft Estate series and the flash fiction collection Flashes of Revenge, both from Trestle Press. He reviews fiction at Daz's Short Book Reviews. Here are his five -- nice to see picks from the ebook side of things.

I make much of Paul D Brazill’s humour in my reviews.  This is a tad unfair and I don’t mean to.  Paul is the master of the crafty witticism. He sometimes makes you forgot that his stories are bloody entertaining and not just a laugh a minute. Only Paul could bring us werewolf noir and make it credible. He is master of style within the universes he creates.

Morrigan brings realism and the deft touch of a master storyteller to anything she writes. I am a huge fan of her writing style and stories she chooses to share with us. In this novelette I could see a feature film. Julie’s writing flows beautifully and she never wastes a single word. 

Rowan is the master of mood.  His powerfully described settings always thrust me into the thick of the action. After reading an Iain Rowan story I find that I need to shake my head to return to the real world.

Hayes brings us poetry within his prose. Characterisation is key with AJ’s writing too as he manages to bring depth to a character with just a sentence or two. For my mind his writing is of such a high standard he should be a household name. Padre gave me characters I ache to see the return of. Dark justice at it’s very finest.

Nigel is the guvnor of the short story format. However, with Smoke he upped the ante and gave us a hugely entertaining novella.  He kept the same intensity that I enjoy in his short stories. The same darkness and above all what he does best – give hope in dark places.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Benoit Lelievre

 First off, the lucky winner of the Ian Ayris give away is Alan Griffiths. I literally picked his name from a hat.
Second, Pulp Ink is only 99 cents US/86 pence UK. You heard right -- for less than a price of a candy bar, you get 24 mean stories from the best writers in crime fiction.

And now you're top five... we've got Benoit Lelievre here today with his top picks for 2011. He's the guy behind the smashing blog Dead End Follies and his stories have recently been published at places like Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled and Shotgun Honey. 

Heath Lowrance - IT WILL ALL BECARRIED AWAY from his collection, Dig Ten Graves

A gripping story that proves you don't need guns or criminals to write dark. It's a love story about two people who missed their chance at each other. Think of it as a darker spin in the films of Wong Kar-Wai. Beautiful and fatalistic.

David Cranmer - CLOUDS IN A BUNKER in the anthology Pulp Ink

Another story about a terrible tragedy that nobody is able to avoid. Everybody grows old and withers away. It's incredibly sad and almost cringe inducing because you know the pain of this family might be your pain one day. The dialog in between father and daughter is nothing short of spectacular

Frank Bill - THE ACCIDENT in Crimes in Southern Indiana

Finally a story that tackles PTSD without carrying the whole war argument. The direct, compact prose of Frank Bill works admirably well here. It's a great story, but it's also the best explanation of PTSD I have ever come across. This kind of story validates literature.

Matthew C. Funk - ALMOST THE DEVIL at A Twist of Noir

I fell in love (figuratively speaking) with Parnell Urquhardt this year. The world of Matthew C. Funk is so full of these dark, twisted characters that reading his stories is almost as dangerous as walking the streets at night in Liberia. A powerful writer, that Funk guy.

Kent Gowran - A SMALL THING AT THE DEVIL'SPUNCHBOWL in Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled

This was an amazing off-beat story. Very trippy, reminding me of those crazy Japanese directors like Takashi Miike. Not the darkest story I've read this year, but who cares? This is by far the most original. The singular, dreamlike imagery gave it a life of its own. I could get addicted to Gowran's stories.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Free Book: Abide With Me by Ian Ayris

To anybody in the crime fiction world, it's no surprise that Ian Ayris is moving up to bigger and better things. His short fiction was all over the internet in 2010 -- raw, powerful stories told in a voice that you will never mistake for anyone else.

So I was pleased to see that his debut novel, Abide With Me, plays to all of Ayris' many strengths. The story is told from the perspective of John, a kid from London's East End. John is one of the most likable characters you'll ever meet -- thoughtful, funny, and very loyal to his friends and family, even through a lot of painful times. The thread that runs through the whole novel is John's friendship with Kenny, a kid who was just dealt a shit hand in life. At its core, Abide With Me is about people's fucked up relationships and how they try to deal with them.

And it crackles with energy. As Eric Beetner put it, Ayris' voice transports you -- and it is one amazing journey. He takes the time to develop even minor characters and each scene is crafted perfectly. I read the second half in one sitting -- something I almost never do -- it was that enthralling. Part family drama, part coming-of-age tale, part crime story, this is one of the most memorable books I've read in a long time.

And now I have the pleasure of giving one of you lucky shits a copy of this fine book. (The rest of you will have to wait until it's released in the spring.)

So here's how the contest works: name your favorite Ian Ayris short story in the comments section. I'll put all your names in a hat (or whatever) and pick the winner.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Five You Can't Miss: Paul D. Brazill

Paul D. Brazill is a funny guy, a great writer, and one of the best promoters in the biz. He's responsible for the Drunk on the Moon series from Trestle Press about that werewolf PI Roman Dalton and has a new collection of stories out called 13 Shots of Noir. You can always find out what he's up to over at his blog, You Would Say that, Wouldn't You? Here he is with five from 2011...

I've decided top go with five writers that I read for the first time in 2011.Here we go 2,3, 4...

- Jelly Babies by J J Toner. (Noir Nation : A mundane fishing trip turns into a work of dark noir in the hands of this up and coming Irish writer.

- Pit Stop by Les Edgerton (Noir Nation: A recent parolee decides to quit town. Just like that. A slice of real life from  a writer described as a cross between Eddie Bunker and Charles Bukowski.

- Freedom Day by Josh Stallings. Stalling's Moses McGuire is a great creation and featured in two classic hardboiled crime novels this year. Freedom Day is a great introduction .And I was dead pleased to have it debut at my blog:

- The Peeper by C J Edwards (All Due Respect:
All Due Respect has been constantly excellent since its inception and Edwards' story is a gripping and dark  modern slice of noir that personifies the tone of the magazine..

- Black Eyed Susan by Thomas Pluck (Powder Burn Flash: Flash fiction suits online reading more than any other story form and Thomas Pluck- who came out of nowhere to be everywhere- shows us how it's done.Pow!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

At Grift Magazine...

I'm up today at Grift Magazine with a shorty called "What Is Your Emergency?"

It's about a stubborn teacher, a red pen, and what might happen if just one little part of reality disappeared.

Big thanks to Editor John Kenyon for offering some helpful advice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles: Volume 2 by Edward A. Grainger

In some ways, Volume 2 of Grainger's popular Cash and Miles series picks up where Volume 1 left off. Cash investigates crimes and exacts justice in a vivid, Western noir world. The stories are still told in Grainger's confident, no-nonsense style.

But I felt like I got to know Cash Laramie a lot better in Volume 2.

The first story in the collection, "The Origins of White Deer," (co-written with Chuck Tyrell) takes us back to Cash's formative days in the Arapaho tribe. His biological parents died in a battle at Fall Creek, and Cash ends up going to Cheyenne as a letter from his father had requested. It's there that he demonstrates his abilities and realizes his calling as a lawman. This story gives us the full picture of the challenges Cash faces as a biracial man on the frontier. It's a well-researched, patient piece that completes this character's fascinating history.

Every story in here is strong, but I particularly dug "Reflections in a Glass of Maryland Rye." This is a chilling tale that shows Cash living with one wrong decision. I liked seeing this other side of Cash -- reflective, sad, and uncertain.

Overall this is an excellent read and I know that Cash fans are already hungry for Volume 3.