Category Archives: noir
To the Devil, My Regards
by Victor Gischler & A. Neil Smith
Kindle Edition (2011)
In case you’re wondering: No, the Devil does not appear in this novella. Z.Z. DelPresto, the narrator of this little tale, does have to go through hell to solve who murdered the daughter of his client.
DelPresto, is a private eye, eking out a living down south in Florida and Alabama. His latest client is an ill-tempered business mogul has hired him to tail the guy’s wife, convinced she’s being unfaithful. While doing so, DelPresto is confronted by the seventeen-year-old daughter, which winds up becoming a wild trist that ends with her dead and DelPresto caught by the police over her corpse with the knife in his hands. Uh oh.
After being released by police, following an intense–and briefly violent–interrogation, DelPresto hits the streets to find out who did it. But as much as he is on the hunt, others are hunting him. The story starts off very strong, with a great blend of humor and violence, as DelPresto basically gets his ass handed to him by cops and crooks alike. He tries to piece together who would have motive to kill the girl and not get killed himself in the process. Then, midway through the novella, there was a bit of a lull. At least to me it felt like the pace of the book had slowed or lost momentum, but by the third act it picks up again and offers a satisfying, albeit a familiar end.
It’s not the kind of story that reinvents the wheel, but it is told with great precision, and wastes no time at all. This is a streamlined story that brings the goods. Fans of the private eye genre may be better equipped to say how well-worn the plot might be, but DelPresto was a great character through which to see the story told. If there are more collaborations in the works between Gischler and Smith, I say bring them on.
edited by Ellen Datlow
Dark Horse (2011)
The ARC of this anthology came at the perfect time, as my reading tastes this spring and summer have been tuned to the noir and dark fantasy genres. So, to see a slew of authors each offer up short stories with a blending of elements from both genres, with Ellen Datlow expertly compiling the stories together, well … let’s just say this might have been the perfect summer read for me this year.
Now, being an anthology, this book offers up a mixed bag, even if does seem like the theme narrows the borders in which the authors can play. The truth is that noir fiction can be pretty damned diverse, and throwing in a supernatural bent only offers more freedom. It boils down to tone, I suppose. In any case, an anthologist like Ellen Datlow is about as reliable as they get when it comes to getting the best from the best.
Right off the bat I was charmed by a gritty heist story by Paul Tremblay called “The Getaway.” A getaway driver speeds his cohorts out of town after a botched robbery, only to find the leader of the pack isn’t in the car anymore. He’s just disappeared, and the rest start to wonder just what the guy they robbed might have had to do with it. This was had a good deal of tension and a cool bit of paranoia.
A great little tale of the wayward soul seeking redemption came from Jeffrey Ford’s “The Last Triangle.” A washed-out addict winds up at the end of his rope and going through a rough bit of rehab in an old woman’s house. But she doesn’t throw him out, and instead recruits him into helping her investigate a mystery involving some rune-like symbols graffitied around town. The dichotomy of the two characters felt familiar, but the magical flavoring and Ford’s way of moving the story along made it feel unique. Quite liked this one.
After that came Laird Barron’s “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven.” Young women hiding out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, hiding out from the law and the men in their lives, are swept up in a local legend and an animal hide with some powers that imbue through whoever wears it. A damned strange story with an ending that really packed a punch. It wound up being one of my favorites from the bunch.
A bit of a quirky one came from Joe Lansdale’s “Dead Sister,” which had a fella hired by an alluring woman to find out who is digging up her sister’s grave each night. I found this one creepy as heck, but with an odd bit of humor to it that kept the rather macabre subject matter from being too gruesome.
Those are just a few samples of what you can expect from the anthology. Sufficed to say that I didn’t really find any of them to be a disappointment, and I was really happy to finally get a chance to sample the works of some authors I’ve not read from yet, but have heard tons of praise for. It’s just about as good as I could ask for from a themed anthology and I hope there is second volume sometime down the road. I suspect Supernatural Noir could be a wellspring of stories if this batch is any indication.
Every Shallow Cut
Chizine Publications (2011)
One good way to enticing me to read your book is to put a dog in it. One good way to repel me is to put a cat in it. Tom Piccirilli opted for dog. My kind of author.
This isn’t a story about a dog though, even if it is an adorable old bulldog named Churchill. It’s about an author at the end of his rope. He’s lost his house, his wife, his career, and the story starts off with him being beaten and robbed of his few remaining possessions in front of a pawn shop. All he has left is his car and his dog. Throw in a steel guitar and you’ve got yourself a country song. After he’s patched up, he pawns off what he can and buys something he believes he’ll need: a gun.
Have you ever had an disquieting feeling go through you, one that feels like when you’re in a sawmill? That’s kind of how this book makes you feel as you read it. There’s a menacing shadow over this guy as he makes his cross-country journey to see his estranged big brother. He’s not going on a killing spree or anything as explosive as that, but he’s a lit fuse. He drives from Colorado to New York to reunite with his estranged brother, as well as his literary agent. Every relationship he has is strained, if not ruined by how his life has been led. The guy, who is never named, is sympathetic on one level for the hardships he faces, but he’s not a very likable guy.
The narration is a combination of frenetic ramblings and brooding contemplation. Piccirilli gives you the idea of what’s going through the guy’s head as it’s happening, not much of it pretty. A feel good story it is not, but it wound up being a story that resonated–like that hum I mentioned–and is rightfully earning praise from just about everyone who reads it. It’s a novella length work, which is a perfect fit for a story like this, as it lasts just long enough for the story that needs to be told to have its turn in the spotlight. The ending may not be what you expect, but it’s about as close to a perfect ending that you could ask for.
If you have any appreciation for dark fiction, then you should most definitely read this book.