So how’s the summer been going for ya’ll?
Yeah, hot and busy here in my adopted home town of the Valley of the Sunand I know, I haven’t been around old Spintingler all that much the past couple of months, but after pissing off a couple of writers here in the pages of Spinetingler, I decided I needed to take a step back and let things cool off a bit. But I’ve been doing a little bit of critical writing along with a mountain of fiction lately and I figured I’d churn out a quicky short thoughts on short fiction to start off my weekend and I thought I’d do a write up on a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
Whether you know it or not, for the past month and a half I’ve been editing Crimefactory’s first anthology. It’s a ton of work, but getting to read and edit so many great short stories all at once has truly reaffirmed my love of short form. (Not that it’s ever wavered, gangsters.) This summer has also been the one where a good sized hunk of my casual reading time has been taken up with a ton of great anthologies (Including one that will be making my year end “best of” list and is currently the subject of a super secret project here at Spinetingler, so I’ll just shut about that for right now) and I thought I’d pass along a few recommendations.
Yeah, who here already misses Todd Robinson’s bastard red headed step child of a zine?
But I’m not here to lament what may very well be the end of Thuglit. The mag churned out more great stories than you can shake a dead cat at and we should be more than grateful that Thuglit help springboard so many fine writers.
And I’ve loved the anthology series just as much as the zine. The true highlight of the third edition for me was “Trauma Dyke” by the immensely talented Derek Nikitas. Nikitas story of long unhealed scars and revenge is one of the most poetic, emotionally charged pieces of crime fiction that I’ve read all year and the story makes the entire anthology worth picking up. But on top of “Trauma Dyke” you get some truly unforgettable stories from Eddie Bunker (I still want to know how Robinson wrangled that one?), Pierce Hansen, Glenn Gray, Stuart Neville’s introduction to the tortured mind of the Ghosts of Belfast’s protagonist Gerry Fegan and tons more great, gritty fiction. Blood, Guts, & Whiskey is a mean nugget of hardcore harboiled and a worthy send off to an unforgettable series of anthologies and one of the webs true trailblazing publishers.
Speaking of trailblazers, long before Steve Weddle and John Hornor Jacobs decided to roll out Needle magazine, Matt Louis and his crew of misfits at Out of the Gutter decided to throw down the printed crime fiction gauntlet, and the end result have been six (soon to be seven) highly readable issues of pulp. Earlier this year, Louis announced that OOTG would be starting a book publishing end of the journal called Gutter Books and its first release was The Baddest of the of the Bad, a best of anthology covering the first three issues of Out of the Gutter magazine. For those of you who’re long time readers of the journal, you’ll be more than familiar with the stories contained within the volume, but trust me when I say they’re all worth revisiting. Victor Gischler’s “Final Tally” is vicious and as morbidly humorous as anything Gischler has ever written; Jordan Harper’s brilliant “Playing Dead” left me spellbound and thinking what a fucking crime it is that this guy hasn’t found a publisher for his novel yet; and Matt Louis’ notorious “Chinese Finger Trap” finishes off the fiction end of the collection with a bang. Just like the magazine, the Baddest of the Bad is broken down into 10 minute reads, 15-to-20 minute reads, and 30 minute reads (5 minute reads are labeled as Flash Breaks) Overall. Baddest of the Bad is a solid debut to what I’m hoping will be an ass kicker of a small press.
Alright, last but far from least is Phoenix Noir edited by Patrick Millikin. This is one I’ve been meaning to review for awhile, but for one reason or another I haven’t gotten around to it. Like most long running series, Akashic’s Noir series at times can be hit or miss. They’re either instant classics like the Ken Bruen edited Dublin Noir, or, well, they’re Trinidad Noir. Fortunately, Phoenix Noir falls into the strong/very strong category. Yeah, I know what you all are thinking, it’s your home city, Rawson, of course you’re gonna think it’s one of the best entries. But, seriously, because of Millikin’s catalog like knowledge of hard-boiled and Noir fiction he makes this collection of “sunshine” Noir a success. The entire line up is a virtual highlight reel of crime fiction’s best. Megan Abbott’s “It’s Like a Whisper” is a chilling piece about my favorite Phoenix mystery (and favorite celebrity scumbag) Bob Crane; for those of you who were entranced by Don Winslow’s soon to be classic novel, Savages, you should definitely check out the static style of his story, “White Out on Van Buren” and new comer Kurt Reichbaugh turns in an impressive performance with his story, “Valarie”. Overall the anthology is more hardboiled than noir, but really, who gives a shit about sub-labels?