Life During Wartime by Thomas Pluck

By George Ebey

Thomas Pluck’s latest book, LIFE DURING WARTIME, is a blackjack 21 of stories featuring people caught up in crime, facing bleak horrors, or otherwise spun up in the whirlpool of human absurdity.

Take a ride on the neuter scooter in “The Big Snip,” selected as one of the best crime stories of 2016. Follow a mountain man who’s not what he seems into a snowbound frontier town where evil has sunk its claws. Dine at the most exclusive restaurant in New York, where “Eat The Rich” takes on a whole new meaning. And meet Denny the Dent, a hulking 350 pounds of muscle who wouldn’t harm a fly…but who’ll glad crush a bully’s skull. And read the Jay Desmarteaux yarn that takes off where “Bad Boy Boggie” ends.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with Mr. Pluck to discuss what this collection has in store for readers.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

The stories are of several genres but “thriller” ties them all together. Whether the characters are caught up in crime, facing bleak horrors, or wake up in a whirlpool of the absurd, it’s our desire to see what comes next that keeps us turning the pages.
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Culprits: the Heist was Only the Beginning by Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips

By Terry DiDomenico

CULPRITS: THE HEIST WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING represents a first for me. It was the first anthology I’d read that reads like a novel. The contributing authors were so attentive to the presented narrative, that each individual story fed into the whole.

The anthology starts out with the introductory chapter that sets up the story and introduces the characters. What appears to be an easy score—seven million dollars in cash found in a slush fund controlled by “an outfit run by business and underworld interests”—ends up with unexpected twists and turns in the heist’s aftermath. From there, each chapter is the story of one of the participants.

CULPRITS is the brainchild of Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips, editors and authors who had just completed an anthology for Jason Pinter at Polis Books. Pinter liked their Occupied Earth and wanted something else from the duo. Brewer and Phillips had a conversation or two “along the lines of that shared world notion, and being fans of the heist story, CULPRITS was born.”

The idea to construct CULPRITS as a novel can be blamed on “all those damn Parker novels by Westlake we were weaned on,” Phillips says. “Not to mention movies like Takers, Rafifi, Inside Man, and the Asphalt Jungle—book and film.”
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Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017 by John McFetridge (Editor)

Janet Hutchings, Chris Grabenstein, Gary Phillips, and Hilary Davidson headline a new world tour anthology of 22 stories from the heartland of America to Italy, Japan, Mexico, Cuba, England, and more.

PASSPORT TO MURDER is published in conjunction with Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, held in 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. As with the convention itself, the anthology spreads a broad canopy across a wide variety of crime writers from across the country and around the world—including both veteran writers and the brightest up-and-coming talents in the field. All of the stories include some kind of travel, ranging from a cross-America ride-sharing trip to tourists in Italy and Japan, to a woman on the run in Mexico, to murder in Cuba. And even a haunted hotel in Toronto.
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Nothing You Can Do: Stories by Ed Kurtz

By G. Robert Frazier

As author Ed Kurtz so eloquently puts it, “Sometimes people kill for profit, sometimes revenge, and sometimes they do it just for the fun of it.”

In his new anthology NOTHING YOU CAN DO: STORIES (Down & Out Books), he demonstrates the theme with seventeen tales of crime, murder, and vengeance.

“I hope these stories entertain more than anything else,” Kurtz says, “but if the dubious morality of the characters in this collection doesn’t serve as something like a mirror the reader isn’t too keen to look into, I’d be a bit disappointed.”

What did you do before you were a writer?

I’ve been all over the place, really. In another life, I was an academic, and since then I’ve worked in corporate settings, grimy night shifts in hotels, and wandered the western world. When I left the academy and found myself behind a desk many years ago, I decided to knuckle down and start doing what I’d always really wanted to do, which resulted in hammering out my first novel (a thorough rewrite of which will finally see the light of day in 2019). In between novels, and ever since, I’ve worked on short fiction, much of it rooted in my own cultural and personal experiences in the American South and in Germany.
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A Better Kind of Hate by Beau Johnson

The world has never been perfect. The world has never been all bad. But there has always been evil and men who drink of it. This ends now.

Enter Bishop Rider and people like him who have had enough and are willing to embrace what most will not. The world will never be perfect. The world will never be all bad. It’s the middle we must embrace. This, a better kind of hate.

The Big Thrill recently caught up to Beau Johnson to discuss his novel, A BETTER KIND OF HATE:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers take away enjoyment from my book, little shots of fun from the stories which bounce around my head.
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Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need by Nora Gaskin Esthimer

CAROLINA CRIMES: 21 TALES OF NEED, GREED AND DIRTY DEEDS is a collection of short stories by crime writers living in North and South Carolina, members of Sisters in Crime. The Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, NC) Chapter of SinC issued the challenge to members to write stories about addiction or obsession and crime. Who knew that the responses would be so varied or that ice cream, a game of Solitaire, or silk fabric could provide motives to commit murder? Or that golf clubs, stiletto-heeled shoes, and microwave ovens could provide the means?

These stories remind us why we love crime fiction, and why it matters. They provide us with the cold revenge of imagination, the hot passion someone could kill for, and the sense of justice a community demands. They remind us we never know exactly what our next-door neighbor may be capable of, or for that matter, what we, ourselves, harbor in the deepest corners of our hearts and minds. The humor is dark. The suspense is shudder-producing. The horror delivers goosebumps. And by the time we turn the last satisfying page, we know more about what it means to be human.
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The Five Senses of Horror by Eric J. Guignard

Hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste: Our impressions of the world are formed by our five senses, and so too are our fears, our imaginations, and our captivation in reading fiction stories that embrace these senses.

Enclosed within this anthology are fifteen horror and dark fantasy tales that will quicken the beat of fear, sweeten the flavor of wonder, sharpen the spike of thrills, and otherwise brighten the marvel of storytelling that is found resonant.

Editor Eric J. Guignard and psychologist K. H. Vaughan, PhD, also include companion discourse throughout, offering academic and literary insight as well as psychological commentary examining the physiology of our senses, why each of our senses are engaged by dark fiction stories, and how it all inspires writers to continually churn out ideas in uncommon and invigorating ways.

Featuring stunning interior illustrations by Nils Bross, and including fiction short stories by authors such as Ramsey Campbell, Richard Christian Matheson, and John Farris, THE FIVE SENSES OF HORROR is intended for readers, writers, and students alike.

The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss THE FIVE SENSES OF HORROR with the anthology’s editor, Eric J. Guignard:
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Exploring Dark Short Fiction by Eric J. Guignard

For over four decades, Steve Rasnic Tem has been an acclaimed author of horror, weird, and sentimental fiction. Hailed by Publishers Weekly as “A perfect balance between the bizarre and the straight-forward” and Library Journal as “One of the most distinctive voices in imaginative literature,” Steve Rasnic Tem has been read and cherished the world over for his affecting, genre-crossing tales.

Dark Moon Books and editor Eric J. Guignard bring you this introduction to his work, the first in a series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction. Herein is a chance to discover—or learn more of—the rich voice of Steve Rasnic Tem, as beautifully illustrated by artist Michelle Prebich.

Included within these pages are:

– Six short stories, one written exclusively for this book
– Author interview
– Complete bibliography
– Academic commentary by Michael Arnzen, PhD (former humanities chair and professor of the year, Seton Hill University)
– … and more!
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More Faces by Simon Maltman

More Faces is a crime short story collection from A Chaser on the Rocks author Simon Maltman. The 12 mystery noirs included feature published and previously unpublished stories and all series shorts currently available. Take a journey across Northern Ireland, through the beauty and darkness, with the fresh new voice in Irish Crime Fiction.

“I’m amazed how a writer can cram so much into such a short space of narrative. You hit the ground running and it’s a sprint finish.”
~ Crime Book Junkie

“A punchy tale, told plainly, with plenty of pace… of old fashioned thuggery and backstreet skullduggery.”
~ Murder, Mayhem and More

“…a snappy read that gives a fresh glimpse into a life of crime and where it can lead you.”

Author Simon Maltman discussed his short story collection, MORE FACES, with The Big Thrill:
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Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks

Hardboiled. Softboiled. Noir. East Coast. West Coast. And all points in between.

Whatever you call them, gumshoe, shamus, Pinkerton, detective, private eye, P.I., shadow, tail, investigator, and wherever you need them, from East to West, North to South. They’re all here.

From the hard pavement of Brooklyn, New York, to the mean dusty streets of Carson City. Down to sultry New Orleans and the freak show that’s Venice, CA. From the flim-flammers of Waco, Texas to DC, Las Vegas to San Berdoo and LA. And from Iowa City to San Diego and small town North Carolina—not to mention the low-life drug dealers in a little place called King’s Quarter, Maine. No one is safe in this impressive collection featuring fifteen original private eye stories. Crime fiction connoisseurs will visit one major crime scene after another with some of today’s best-of-the-best crime writers serving as tour guides. Poisoned-pen masters like: Joe Abramo, Eric Beetner, Michael Bracken, Meredith Cole, Matt Coyle, Tom Donohue, John Floyd, Gay Kinman, Terrill Lee Lankford, Janice Law, Paul D. Marks, Andrew McAleer, O’Neil DeNoux, Robert J. Randisi, and Art Taylor.
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Resume Speed, Stories by Guinotte Wise

Resume Speed-v6 2By Derek Gunn

Guinotte Wise has managed to cram a lot into the anthology, RESUME SPEED. I’m not normally a huge fan of anthologies; don’t get me wrong—I like short stories. But usually I end up reading a few stories and then go back to a novel and bounce back to the anthology after each novel. This usually means I lose track of any trend or glue that holds the anthology together.

In this anthology, though, the stories are slices of life and stand very much on their own. The fact that Wise has had many jobs comes through in every story, where he invites us to a bar or a funeral home, and oozes realism.

His last anthology was described as cinematic, compared to a Tarantino movie. This is well deserved. The scenes are set simply and accurately and the reader feels as though they have come in from the street and is already seated at the bar Guinotte describes. You can smell the alcohol soaked into the wood of the bar, a stray wisp of cigarette smoke, even hear a cough from the back of the room. Dialogue is never strained. Characters interact as you would expect them to, and the author pulls from his own experiences to ensure that each story has a realistic flavor to it, with just enough quirkiness to keep us guessing.

The writing is clear and seeps talent. You settle yourself, allow yourself to wallow in their storylines, and they end far too soon. Not that the story is not finished—I would just have liked to stay a bit longer in each scene. Characters are well drawn, obviously taken from the many people Wise has met during his varied career, and I was riveted to each story.

Wise has been a creative director in advertising most of his working life, he says, and I can see how he has been successful in this. He plays with words and our emotions, shocking, cajoling, and urging us to read one more story before we put the book away.

I managed to catch up with Wise this month and he kindly took some time out to give The Big Thrill  some background and insights into his thought processes.
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Unloaded by Eric Beetner (editor)

unloadedBy J. H. Bográn

Short stories, some people love them, some people hate them, and some people love to hate them. Me, I love them. I think they are the essence of storytelling. I love them even more when seemingly independent stories get combined into an anthology, joined by a unifying theme.

Most people would associate crime fiction with guns—often a weapon of choice for bad guys, and good guys. Well, they may be proven wrong by the new anthology, UNLOADED.

For the first time, more than two dozen crime and mystery authors have joined together to use the strongest weapon at their disposal—words—in a call for reasonable gun control in the United States. In this collection you get all the thrills and excitement you come to expect from a great crime story, but without any guns.

The writers are from both sides of the political aisle and many of the authors are gun owners themselves. But everyone felt it was time to speak out. Featuring the talents of Joe R. Lansdale, Hilary Davidson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Alison Gaylin, Grant Jerkins, Joyce Carol Oates, Tim O’Mara, Rob Hart, Kelli Stanley, Joe Clifford and many more.

The Big Thrill had the opportunity to interview the author who put on his editor hat for the anthology,  Eric Beetner.

How did you get the idea for UNLOADED?

Way back after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting I had the idea, but I figured it wouldn’t work. I know how small the gesture is on an issue this big, but then when shooting after shooting happened I just felt I couldn’t sit silently by any more. Tweeting anger about it only went so far. Plus, I started to notice several of my author friends had similar feelings about guns as I did. I was curious to know if they also shared the guilt I felt about using guns in my writing while personally advocating for more gun control. When I started to approach writers about the idea I got enthusiastic responses, even from those authors too busy to contribute a story. I think people had felt, as I did, that we needed to band together to say something, no matter how small. We don’t expect to move legislation with this book, but if we can add our voice and our opinion to the conversation about guns in America and do so without the vitriol or animosity that usually comes with the conversation, then we will have accomplished what we set out to do.
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Ross Macdonald: Three Novels of the Early 1960s by Tom Nolan (editor)

Revelatory Stories from a Master of Crime Fiction

Ross Macdonald 2By Nancy Bilyeau

In spring 1959 the California newspapers were full of stories about a young woman’s disappearance. Linda Millar, a 19-year-old honor student, vanished from the University of California Davis campus. For more than a week, her distraught Santa Barbara parents, Kenneth and Margaret, tried to find her, hiring a private detective and asking the media to publish stories on the search. Linda read a written appeal from her father in one newspaper and telephoned home. She had been wandering through Northern California and Reno, Nevada. “She just wasn’t herself,” said a private detective.

The problems of Linda Millar ran deep. Three years earlier, driving drunk, she hit three pedestrians and killed one, a 13-year-old boy; she was on probation and under psychiatric care when she disappeared from college. After her father drove to Reno to reunite her with her family, Linda was hospitalized for emotional stress.

Leap forward to the early 1960s: Three novels in the Lew Archer detective series hit the stores: The Zebra Striped Hearse, The Chill and The Far Side of the Dollar. They were meticulously constructed mysteries, with spare yet eloquent prose and haunting Southern California atmosphere. And the plots of all three books revolved around the disappearance of a young woman or a young man, or the breach between a father and daughter. The author: Ross Macdonald, the pen name of Kenneth Millar. The author of 18 Lew Archer novels, Macdonald is today considered the third in the “holy trinity” of American crime fiction icons, with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Macdonald’s writing style has influenced writers from Sue Grafton to Michael Connelly.

Author and critic Tom Nolan selected these three books for the collection, published by the Library of America. “He was a brilliant writer in so many ways and these three are first-rate books representing a golden period.” (Macdonald aficianados debate whether The Chill or The Galton Case is his best book.) The connection between the personal traumas of Kenneth Millar and the professional work of Ross Macdonald is anything but news to Nolan. He wrote an acclaimed 2008 biography of Macdonald revealing the at-times unhappy life (an impoverished, fatherless Canadian childhood, a difficult marriage) of the deeply private writer, who had been known to make it a condition of press interviews that his daughter not be mentioned. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1983.
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The Gods of HP Lovecraft edited by Aaron J. French

gods of hpBy Derek Gunn

THE GODS OF H. P. LOVECRAFT is a dream of an anthology. For anyone who loves Lovecraft, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, and any of the others who have kept this mythos alive, make some room on your bookshelf. The anthology collects the twelve principal deities of the Lovecraftian Mythos, hands them over to some of the world’s best writers and stands back. There isn’t one name I did not know and many already on my own bookshelves, so this really is a treat. As if that wasn’t enough we also get some great artwork and individual commentary on each of the deities by Donald Tyson.

I could really stop the article here, as anyone who has read, and loved Lovecraft, has probably already stopped reading and has gone out to buy the book. But, for those who are still reading let me elaborate a little more.

H. P. Lovecraft created the Cthulhu Mythos through a series of short, and some not so short, stories where man’s place in the universe was portrayed as insignificant against such cosmic beings. The stories were groundbreaking, horrific, and utterly captivating. Many other authors began to write within the universe, expanding its ideas and horrors until it has grown to a much-written about fictional universe.

This anthology takes twelve of the Deities, provides insightful details by Donald Tyson for each one, and the authors do the rest. Aaron J. French is the editor-in-chief of Dark Discoveries magazine, editor of various other anthologies as well as this one, and also acts as editor for many novels with JournalStone Publishing. I will outline some of the stories below but not too many as you will want to read these yourself.
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Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 50s, edited by Sarah Weinman

women crime writers boxed setBy Nancy Bilyeau

The 1944 film Laura is a noir classic, cherished not only for its haunting score and performances–alluring Gene Tierney, acerbic Clifton Webb, and relentless Dana Andrews–but also for the chills of the brutal murder at its core. Less well known is the 1942 detective story the film was based on, written by Vera Caspary. It’s a tense read, more nuanced than the film, with daring point of view switches and well developed characters, set in a world of newspaper-columnist divas, impoverished fashion models, striving ad executives, and ice-cold heiresses.

This may change, now that Caspary’s novel has been brought to light as part of the stunning collection Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 1950s, published by the Library of America and edited by Sarah Weinman. The other chosen authors: Patricia HighsmithHelen Eustis, Dorothy B. Hughes, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Charlotte Armstrong,  Margaret Millar, and Dolores Hitchens. Val McDermid wrote in her New York Times review, “There is a clear line of descent from this style of storytelling to the current crop of best-selling novels labeled by the book trade as ‘domestic suspense’ or ‘suburban noir.’ I can’t help thinking that authors like Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, and Paula Hawkins have learned a thing or two from such foremothers.”

Weinman, a crime fiction aficionado, selected the “top of the class” women writers of suspense of that era: “They had good sales in hardcover and paperback, excellent reviews, high regard among their writer peers.” This is not Weinman’s first foray into earlier decades. She edited Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, published by Penguin Books in 2013 and nominated for an Anthony Award. When reading through the work she gathered for Women Crime Writers, she was struck by how universal and timeless the stories are.  “Mothers still do everything to protect their children, still fear murderous men, still struggle with expectations placed upon them by society, family, peer groups, and the like,” she says. 

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Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers, edited by Austin S. Camacho

An Anthology of Thrilling Fiction for Teens

young adventurersBy Mark Alpert

Austin S. Camacho is one of those daring writers who have made the leap into the publishing business. He’s a longtime author of suspense fiction–he’s written five novels about Washington D.C. private eye Hannibal Jones and four in the Stark and O’Brien international adventure-thriller series, as well as the new detective novel Beyond Blue–but he’s also the editorial director of a Maryland-based small press called Intrigue Publishing. Founded three years ago by Camacho and two partners, Intrigue has a growing list of mysteries, thrillers, and Young Adult novels penned by up-and-coming authors. And now Intrigue is publishing a collection of short stories for teenagers, an anthology edited by Camacho and titled Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers.

Although other presses have published YA anthologies, Young Adventurers offers a uniquely wide sampling of genres, from spy stories to horror to science fiction and fantasy. The collection’s first tale, “Piney Power,” by New York Times bestselling author F. Paul Wilson, describes a supernatural episode from the teenage years of Repairman Jack, Wilson’s popular antihero. “Sidetracked,” by Jeffrey Westhoff, tells the story of a teenage apprentice spy who tracks Russian operatives, and “The Girl Who Slipped Through the Mirror,” by Kevin Singer, is a horror story reminiscent of Stephen King. The anthology’s second half is devoted to science fiction and fantasy tales, including a story about dragon hunting titled “The Wreck of the Blue Plover,” by David Turnbull.

The collection reflects the eclectic tastes of Camacho, who studied psychology at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., before joining the U.S. Army. He enlisted as a weapons repairman, but soon found a more appropriate calling when the Army trained him to be a broadcast journalist. One of the highlights of his military career came during Operation Desert Storm when Camacho went to Israel to videotape the Patriot missile crews battling the Scud rockets launched from Iraq. Nowadays, he continues to handle media relations for the Defense Department as a civilian. In addition, Camacho is deeply involved with writers’ organizations–he’s a past president of the Maryland Writers Association, a past vice president of the Virginia Writers Club, and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime.
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Occupied Earth by Richard J. Brewer

Occupied Earth standing bookBy Gary Phillips

In H. G. Wells’ classic book The War of the Worlds, the Earth, invaded by Martians, is on the brink of annihilation, only to be saved at the last moment by pesky germs that we human had long gotten used to. Wells’ story has fascinated the public since its first publication in 1898 and over the decades variations of this tale have been told via radio, feature films, comics books, and television.

In the 1950s, fueled by Cold War paranoia, books like the Puppet MastersInvasion of the Body Snatchers, and the short story Who Goes There, portend the invaders invading our bodies and taking us over from within or replacing us by mimicking our form.  Philip K. Dick’s various scenarios had us questioned our very identities, perhaps even tampered with them in such short stories as “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Or maybe, unknown to us, we were the pretend humans we chased, the replicants in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, his noir-ish futuristic cop story.  And PKD also envisioned a conquered America, where the Axis won the war in The Man in the High Castle.

So what if they, the ones from out there, weren’t defeated by evolution or our collective fight like in Independence Day?  What if the aliens have been watching us for some time, but had also infiltrated us by surgically altering themselves to look human and burying sleepers among us who become a part of our society for years?  What if with their acquired intel and a superior military force they not only attack us, but win? Earth becomes a militarily strategic outpost for these invaders.  What would become of us then?
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Coast to Coast by Paul D. Marks and Andrew McAleer

Coast to Coastx_1500By Andrew McAleer & Paul D. Marks

Andrew McAleer, Sherlock Holmes Revere Bowl Award Winner and author of Fatal Deeds, and Paul D. Marks, author of the Shamus Award-Winning thriller White Heat, are the editors of a new mystery-thriller short story anthology COAST TO COAST: MURDER FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA out this month from Down & Out Books. They join The Big Thrill to give us a sneak preview of the anthology and talk about what inspired the project.

How did COAST TO COAST evolve? Is there a unifying theme to all the stories?

The concept of the anthology was to gather stories from some of the best short story writers in the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast and the murder belt in between. We wanted to capture the similarities and differences from region to region. And, what’s the one scandalous thing everybody and everyplace has on the docket from sea to shining sea? Crime.

So, we asked authors to give us their best crime stories and we got back a great variety of stories, all set in different places, different atmospheres, different voices. We also made certain the stories in COAST TO COAST round up the usual dubious suspects like malice aforethought, dangerous dames, double cross, puzzles, likeable rogues, not-so-likeable rogues—lust, love and lucre. Our advice to fellow thriller connoisseurs—put the kettle on the boil and, as the bell tolls midnight and the double-locked doors somehow manage to creak, enjoy COAST TO COAST from cover to bloody cover.

Since the theme is murder from “coast to coast,” what are some of the locations?

The stories bounce back and forth between the coasts, and even down to Mexico City. From the famous Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston to the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the Port of Los Angeles. And from the wind-swept New England shoreline to the transitioning Italian-American neighborhood of North Beach in San Francisco, and back down to the Disney Concert Hall in L.A. Crime lurks everywhere, from the murky depths of Echo Park Lake and the body dump of the Angeles National Forest, to the clear waters of Oyster Bay and the beaches of Cape Cod. And the stories in range from hardboiled to suspense-thrillers to a bit of whimsy. Something for everyone.
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Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015

Behind the Scenes of Editing a Crime-Fiction Collection

murder under the oaksBy Art Taylor

For the second year in a row, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, has partnered with Down & Out Books to debut an anthology of short fiction at the convention—taking place this year in Raleigh, North Carolina, from October 8th to 11th. Sales of MURDER UNDER THE OAKS benefit Wake County Public Libraries in the convention’s host city, and as a native North Carolinian myself, I was thrilled to be invited to serve as editor for the collection.

MURDER UNDER THE OAKS will include plenty of high-tension, high-stakes drama: a personal protection specialist battling a virtual reality program that’s turning against its owner; a Kansas City schoolteacher traveling in Mexico with a makeshift garrote and murder on his mind; and a cop gone rogue to avenge the death of her sister—and to deliver a world of hurt in the process.

But the anthology also has quieter stories, such as one about a father’s nighttime drive to visit his daughter, his reflections on his failed relationship and on fatherhood, and his concerns about the future. While I don’t think anyone would call the story a thriller, it does include its own brand of tension and equally high emotional stakes, speaking to the range of approaches available to us writers.

Maybe this is how it should be in a general anthology, especially one connected with Bouchercon—a mix of stories and styles and tones as varied as the many authors whose work falls under the broad umbrella (or in this case, oak canopy) that we collectively call mysteries. At least I took that as part of my mission in selecting stories for the book.

The final collection includes 21 stories: nine from invited contributors and 12 selected blind from a submission pool that rose to well over 150 stories.

The invited contributors included several of the honorees for this year’s Bouchercon: Margaret Marton, Tom Franklin, Zoë Sharp, Sarah Shaber, Lori Armstrong, and Sean Doolittle. After a couple of other guests of honor were unable to contribute, Down & Out Books solicited stories from two other writers in their stable for consideration: J.L. Abramo and Rob Brunet.

But the real pleasure and the toughest challenges were in selecting from the blind submissions—with confusion reigning from start to finish. In the beginning, the confusion was about the title: “Does my submission have to include a murder? Or an oak?” (No, in each case.) By the end, the confusion was solely my own: Which of the many great stories I read would I pick? And which could I cut?
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Soft Apocalypses by Lucy A. Snyder

Soft Apocalypses by Lucy A. Snyder

By John Raab

Author Lucy Snyder returns with an anthology, including the Bram Stoker winning story of 2013 titled “Magdala Amygdala.” Snyder is also the author of an urban fantasy series featuring Jessie Shimmer. Snyder has sold over one-hundred and twenty short stories. Fifteen of those are included in this latest book SOFT APOCALYPSES, in a range of genres.

SOFT APOCALYPSES is your latest anthology. What kind of short stories will fans see inside the pages?

The book contains a mix of genres. All of the stories are dark, perhaps not all horror, but very dark nonetheless.

“Magdala Amygdala,” the opening story in the collection, is my take on the zombie apocalypse. It won the 2012 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. “However….” is the original version of a story Gary A. Braunbeck and I cowrote for a Hellraiser anthology; we were asked to edit this version because it was deemed too disturbing for that book (yes: too disturbing for Hellraiser. I was just as baffled as you are). “Antumbra” is a post-apocalyptic science fiction horror story. “Diamante and Strass” is a post-apocalyptic, rock-and-roll science fiction weird Western. “Tiger Girls vs. the Zombies” is an entirely different take on a zombie apocalypse; it’s set in the world of my book INSTALLING LINUX ON A DEAD BADGER. “The Leviathan of Trincomalee” is a Lovecraftian steampunk adventure tale on the high seas.

Those are just a handful of the stories in the collection. Most every story features some kind of “soft” apocalypse: the world that the main character knows and understands has come to an end, but life goes on after the cataclysm.
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Trouble in Mind: The Collected Stories, Volume 3 by Jeffery Deaver

NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author and highly acclaimed storyteller Jeffery Deaver-the undisputed “grand master of the plot twist” (Booklist)-returns with a dazzling new collection of short stories. In these twelve electrifying tales (including six written just for this anthology) Deaver proves once again his genius for the unexpected-in his world, appearances are always deceiving.

A devoted housekeeper embarks on a quest to find the truth behind her employer’s murder. A washed-up Hollywood actor gets one last, high-stakes chance to revive his career. A man makes an impulsive visit to his hometown, and learns more about his past than he bargained for. Two Olympic track hopefuls receive terrorist threats. And Deaver’s beloved series characters Lincoln Rhyme, Kathryn Dance, and John Pellam return in stories now in print for the first time.
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Murder Here, Murder There by R. Barri Flowers and Jan Grape

By Connie (Corcoran) Wilson, M.S.

“We need to have eyes, here, there and everywhere,” says a character in Edward Marston’s short story “Here, There and Everywhere,” one of the stories in the new anthology MURDER HERE, MURDER THERE, edited by R. Barri Flowers and Jan Grape. Both co-editors also contribute a story (“Convinced” and “The Confession”) among the 19 short stories represented. The book was released May 25, 2012 with “murder coming at you from here, there, and everywhere,” according to TWILIGHT TIMES publisher Lida E. Quillen.
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Between the Lines of Love Is Murder

By Julie Kramer

LOVE IS MURDER says it all. Story after story. Romantic suspense is the theme of the latest International Thriller Writers anthology.

Sandra Brown, author of more than sixty New York Times bestselling novels, immediately accepted the task of editing the short story collection even though she’s never written a short story herself.

“The challenge of writing a short story is so daunting to me,” she said.  “I’d rather write a

full-length novel than even attempt a short story because a good one requires a particular talent that, sadly, I don’t have. That’s why I was so impressed by the cleverness of the stories.”

The book’s appeal is also that Brown shares her gut reaction to each narrative’s mechanics and passion, heightening readers’ expectations story-by-story.

“These writers knew what they were doing,” she said. “Each is different. Some are poignant, others scary. Some focus on high octane action, while others are shatteringly emotional or psychologically terrifying.  Reading them for the first time, I was truly, jaw-droppingly amazed by the variety of talent.”

Brown says the allure of romantic suspense as a genre comes because it crosses over so many other genres — mystery, thrillers, even science fiction.  “Diehard readers of those genres find all the elements they expect and favor, plus the love story angle. The romance adds spice, certainly, but it also raises the stakes for the protagonists.  Love is a dramatic and powerful motivator that can instill in a character strong emotions like rage, bravery, despair, all of which makes for great storytelling.”

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Dangerous Women & Desperate Men by Rick Mofina

DANGEROUS WOMEN & DESPERATE MEN is a collection of four gripping stories of people on the brink; a broken-hearted woman in Las Vegas plots to take what she is owed; a haunted street cop finds his life on the line in a way he never expected; a desperate agent in California makes a life-changing choice; a hard-working middle-aged woman whose world is coming apart fights back with shocking vengeance.

This collection includes “Lightning Rider,” the winner of Canada’s top literary prize for crime fiction, the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story, presented by the Crime Writers of Canada.
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Home Improvement: Undead Edition by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

By Don Helin

In their latest Anthology, Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner compiled stories so scary that Romantic Times Book Review says, “As home repair projects can sometimes take on a hellish nature, 14 authors hit the nail on the head with these truly DIY nightmares.”

There’s nothing like home renovation for finding skeletons in the closet or other-worldly portals in the attic.  Editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner return with an all new story collection of the paranormal perils of DIY . . .   This is the fourth anthology from New York Times best selling pair Toni L.P. Kelner and co-editor Charlaine Harris.  Kelner is also the author of the “Where are we Now?” mysteries, the Laura Fleming mystery series, and the forthcoming Family Skeleton Series.  She’s won an Agatha Award and an RT Career Achievement Award, and has been nominated for the Anthony and the Macavity awards.
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No Rest for the Dead edited by Andrew F. Gulli

Special to the Big Thrill by Andrew F. Gulli

It was hot and humid in New York, not many of you will remember the 2005 edition of BEA, but I will for many reasons…

For starters it was the first BEA I attended (and so far the last) and also, I was so damned tired from talking non-stop, shaking hands, and being stuck in that sauna of germs the Javitz Center, that on the airplane journey back home, I was struck with a flu which was biblical in its severity. Being on a runway for three hours and for another three hours on a flight that usually took 90 minutes didn’t help.

A distant memory from that stifling trip that today shines brightly was welcomed by the ITW. I had arranged to see my friend Joe Konrath at the Javitz, “Hey, Andrew you’re coming to the party right?” he asked.
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A Between the Lines Interview with First Thrills authors Lee Child, Steve Berry, Michael Palmer, Heather Graham, John Lescroart, and more

by Brett King

It began as an alliance.  When International Thriller Writers was formed in 2004, its promise rested on bringing together established novelists with emerging writers.  As part of its brisk legacy, ITW has championed the work of new authors, a dedication that shines in the breakthrough publication, First Thrills:  High-Octane Stories from the Hottest Thriller Authors.  Forge Books released the critically acclaimed anthology for the first time in paperback on May 24, 2011.

Under the careful editorship of New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, First Thrills brings together original short stories crafted by seasoned authors to help showcase work from debut authors.  “The idea was to sprinkle some major attractions in the shop window, to draw your eye,” Child notes about the participation of bestselling authors.  “[They] all contributed stories—free, gratis, and for nothing, simply because they remembered their debut years and didn’t want to stand by idle.  Among them, they sell many millions of books a year, and we think they brighten up the shop window enormously.”
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Pittsburgh Noir by Kathleen George

by Karen Harper

PITTSBURGH NOIR is a collection of 14 stories by writers, each either a resident of or with strong links to the city.  Each story takes place in a different neighborhood—according to the Akashic model for the series.  Pittsburgh is a friendly city—sports crazy, lots of working class sensibility, unpretentious.  And Pittsburghers love their city for its ethnic neighborhoods, its spectacular skyline, and the sports teams that keep us entertained (and tense).  But lust, revenge, and dark impulses exist here too because those are all too human motives.  And those motives make for great stories.
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Dreamspell Nightmares: An Anthology

Twenty thriller and horror stories by some of the country’s most imaginative authors. “What do you call three dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start” . . .”a tanker sails on a voyage of death. Can war veteran Cheryl Wilkins and enigmatic Patrick Boudreaux uncover and stop a true believer?” . . .”There are many kinds of nightmares” . . . and many more
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Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror edited by R.L. Stine

fear.jpg“Combine a title like Fear with a name like Stine, and most readers will naturally assume this collection is filled with supernatural terrors. And for many of these 13 original stories, they would be right. Many genres are represented, and each story (including Stine’s, which opens the book) offers chills, though seldom getting too gruesome. Readers seeking diverse sources of suspense will most appreciate this collection.” —Publishers Weekly
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