Posts Tagged ‘noir’

EconoClash Review #5 edited by J.D. Graves

ECR 5 continues its crusade to bring cheap, quality thrills to the masses, throwing a smorgasbord of genres and writers into a blender and straining it out into a pint glass. Overall, I found the issue entertaining and at the level I’ve come to expect from editor J.D. Graves. I should also mention that I’ve had a story published by ECR in the past and I occasionally grace the ECR page with reviews.

“California Communion” by Cynthia Ward is a weird bit of sci-fi about a teenager stoner who ends up getting abducted by aliens… and discovers that they get drunk off water. Which makes Earth the equivalent of a free keg for passing aliens. The protagonist’s chemical predilections leaves it open as to whether the events of the story actually occurred or were the fevered imaginings of an altered state of consciousness. Either way, the dialogue and the narration is entertaining in and of itself.

“Silo” by Cameron Mount. Okay, so I read this piece a few years back when Cameron was still developing it, and it still gives me the creeps now. The thought of being shut underground, away from all human contact, and the only thing standing between the world as it is now and nuclear Armageddon is me not screwing up. Ahem. Yeah. There’s enough in this story to leave the reader questioning how much the narrator was imagining, and how much there was going on outside of his head. Either way, it makes a good cautionary tale regarding nuclear weapons and who we put in charge of them.

“Mr. Muffin” by E.F. Sweetman is a woman PI recounting one of the first cases she ever took on… that of a missing cat. Only the case quickly snowballs, and our intrepid detective finds herself in over her head and dealing with a pair of serial killers. The biggest strike against this story, for me, was the framing device. You already know the main character survives the events of the story which always sucks a bit of the tension out of a piece for me. That said, the actual narration is fantastic and the characters more than memorable. Sweetman always finds a way to entertain and this story is no different.

“The Retcon” by R. Daniel Lester is a great piece of sci-fi noir with a premise I didn’t expect. The main character has a unique skill set to delve into other people’s memories, to tease out what they know. Only the particular job he’s on is a personal one, as he dives into the memories of someone who once encountered his estranged daughter. I remain impressed by the world-building and setup that’s accomplished in such a short piece, but even more so with its emotional weight and gravitas.

“Luck be a Bullet” by Aeryn Rudel follows a hit man’s up and downs over the course of a night a his luck changes as often as hands over a long night of cards. If there’s any big take away from the story is that it doesn’t matter how good or bad your luck is during the course of things, but what the balance is at the end of the night. The big downside to the piece is that the characters come across as fairly stock for the genre: the bloodthirsty gangster, the talkative hitman with nerves of steel… The set-up is okay, but I didn’t read anything truly innovative or different in this story.

“The Bridesmaid” by David Rachels – what do you do with a no good nephew who wants to prove that he can be somebody in organized crime, but is probably more trouble than he’s worth. Well, why not send him off to try and kill someone who, in all likelihood, would get to him first? That’s the sordid tale of Lucien, a hapless assassin so pitiful he couldn’t even kill himself right. This is definitely a story who like their humor black as Turkish coffee.

“Hell Yeah!” by Die Booth – while an entertaining story, the overall premise didn’t quite work for me. A bunch of teens are able to make a wish, and they end up wishing for pizza anytime, anywhere they want. From that simple wish grows an entire pizza empire, only there’s a catch. It turns out the pizza is a trick from Hell, and anyone who partakes ends up damned. While it is an interesting idea, it ignores the whole concept of free will and well, taking a bite of pizza shouldn’t negate a lifetime of good works. Yes, I realize I ended up overthinking this story, but it still bothers me.

“Service with a Smile” by Adam Furman – a thoroughly disgusting PI is hired by the court to track down an individual. Yeah, that’s the framework, but the story dives straight into the transgressively absurd, working hard to shock the reader out of a sense of normalcy. For the most part it works, but, to be honest, I felt very little for any of the characters involved, though a few stand out moments in the narrative did entertain more than I necessarily thought they would.

“The Sleep-Tights” by Aristo Couvras is a creepy little horror story about a pandemic that strikes only when people fall asleep. Everyone goes to dramatic lengths to keep awake as the only known link between people disappearing is that it happens when they fall asleep. Finally, it is discovered that the true culprits are bed bugs on steroids who are pulling full grown people into the fabric they are infesting. Couvras manages the impressive task of telling a full cycle story in the short format where are other writers might have left the actual conclusion in the air. Probably not a story to read right before you drift off though.

“Aid and Comfort” by J. Manfred Weischel was the story I was least impressed with in this outing from ECR. It’s post alien invasion and the humans and the aliens are learning to try to get along. One Rillian ends up holed up in a human household and an attempt is made at integrating the alien, only it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. The writing in this felt heavy handed and awkward, and a key piece of the story relies on what is an overextended poop joke. Sorry, ECR, but it might be cheap but it didn’t give me a thrill.

The issue is available via Down & Out Books as well as Amazon.

A new noir piece of mine is up at The Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine and is also available at Amazon in print and kindle. This is the second piece of mine they’ve published. The first can be found here.

I’d say its a departure for me, but well, my writing has been a bit all over the map recently. As for what I’m working on now, I’m part way through a short story featuring Ariadna. This would be the third story featuring her, the first two having appeared in Pulp Modern. It’s a no magic sword slinging adventure. I’ve also been chipping away at the Liam the Black novel. Hopefully I’ll be able to give progress updates as those happen.

Being the continuation of my fantasy thieves serial.

Part one is here. Part two is here. Part three is here. Part four is here. Comments are always welcome!


Killing Pretty

Killing Pretty

By Richard Kadrey

In many ways, this book, the seventh in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is a return to form, while simultaneously a step forward for James Stark, the eponymous Sandman Slim.

Gone are the world destroying powers. Gone is the ultimate escape clause. It’s a noir story in the sense that there is a mystery to be solved, powerful people to shake down, and the main character isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is.

Kadrey does a masterful job tapping into the California noir tradition of LA Confidential and Chinatown, and despite the supernatural elements of angels, Hellions, magic, and Death, the overall tone is kept grounded by the very real problems of managing relationships, holding a job, and dealing with local politics.

Where the book really shines, however, is in deconstructing the main characters’ usual modus operandi. Yes, going in without thinking gets results, sometimes even positive ones, but, at the end of the day it costs him more than he gains. It’s a lesson not just for life, but for other writers, in looking at the anti-hero character and seeing where it comes up short. It was also refreshing to see Kadrey spend more time on the characters surrounding Stark including Candy, his monster-girlfriend, Julia, the ex-Marshal turned private investigator, and Kasabian, the head on a robot body who runs the video store he and Stark co-own. (My biggest complaint? Not enough of the immortal French alchemist Vidoq, who probably could carry a series all by himself.)

So if you like high octane urban fantasy, if you like your heroes to come in shades of grey, and most importantly, if you enjoy noir, I highly recommend you pick up KILLING PRETTY.