Life has never been easy. Life has never been kind. It is always hungry. It is never full. Enter the struggles within the pages of THE BIG MACHINE EATS. Where fathers clash with sons, cannibals turn on cannibals, and sometimes sandwich meat is far from the worst choice a person can make.
These stories, along with the continuing adventures of Bishop Rider, make up the bulk of this collection. They are not for the faint of heart. They are not for those who fail to believe one should get what one deserves. We must help ourselves. We must help those who find themselves unable. If not, it’s as the sign says: The Big Machine Will Eat.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Beau Johnson to discuss his latest book, THE BIG MACHINE EATS:
By Dawn Ius
Putting together a collection of short stories is no easy task —there’s a process the author goes through to determine the criteria. A theme, a genre, or even, in the case of Eric Guignard’s THAT WHICH GROWS WILD, the most logical grouping of 16 previously published works culled from a list of about 70.
Guignard worked with an editor at Cemetary Dance to select titles that showed a diverse range of topics, while at the same time ensuring the collection didn’t veer too far off course — less satire, more mood, for instance.
The result is a page-turning corpus of dark tales that shy away from cliched monsters and glorified gore, and instead provide chilling perspective on horror and heartbreak, hope and atonement, and the emotional despair of oblivion.
“I enjoy thrills of all kinds, whether the ghosts and monsters of horror, or the shoot-em-up of military conquest; the excitement and wanderlust of adventure tales, or bleak mayhem in noir gangster epics. They each inspire and ‘thrill’ me in different ways,” Guignard says. “Regardless of how the genre has changed, I try to write stories that have meaning to me, and, I hope, to the reader, whether tales of woe, mystery, or strange fancy.”
It’s the sedan just within sight that seems to be mimicking your speed and movements as you walk down the dark deserted street late at night. As the hairs rise on the back of your neck you wonder, Who is behind the wheel and what is the driver’s intent? It’s The Black Car Business and its presence means your life is about to abruptly change. You try to assure yourself there’s nothing wrong, but your pace quickens nonetheless, and soon you’re running, desperate for that narrow sliver between two buildings to slip through, the one too narrow for the black car to pass through.
It’s that car parked just down the block that sends chills down your spine and keeps you awake throughout the night.
It’s the sanctuary you race toward when you’re being chased, only to explode when you turn the key.
It’s the one that skids off the icy mountain overpass and plunges into the cavernous grotto.
It’s where Clemenza garrotes Carlo just as he’s about to be driven to the airport.
It’s The Black Car Business.
If The Black Car Business Volume 1 made you nervous, VOLUME 2 will have you climbing the walls. Here are eleven fresh takes on that ominous black whip coming out of nowhere to stun and lay waste to your psyche. You may lose a few nights’ sleep but we promise it will be worth it.
Contributors: Jonathan Ashley, Brett Battles, Kathy Bennett, Austin S. Camacho, Tim Ellis, Ty Hutchinson, Rick Murcer, Richie Narvaez, Gary Ponzo, Jeff Soloway, and Frank Zafiro.
The Big Thrill caught up to Lawrence Kelter to gain some insight into the creation of the second volume of THE BLACK CAR BUSINESS anthology:
The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. The narrative timeline is warped, like a blood-soaked Möbius Strip. It goes round in circles—like a deranged animal chasing its own tail.
The content is brutal and provocative: small-town pornography, gun-running, mutilation and violent, blood-streaked stories of revenge. The cast list includes sex offenders, serial killers, bare-knuckle fighters, carnies and corrupt cops. And a private eye with a dark past—and very little future.
Welcome to Paignton Noir.
Tom Leins took time out of his day to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest release, REPETITION KILLS YOU:
Inspired by the outcasts, outlaws, and other outré inhabitants of rock legend Lou Reed’s songbook, DIRTY BOULEVARD traffics in crime fiction that’s sometimes velvety and sometimes vicious, but always, absolutely, rock & roll. Inside, you’ll find stories from the fire escapes to the underground, stories filled with metal machine music, stories for gender-bending, rule-breaking, mind-blasting midnight revelries and drunken, dangerous, dark nights of the heart.
Upcoming genre stars like Alison Gaylin team up with crime fiction legends such as Reed Farrel Coleman, along with Cate Holahan, Gabino Iglesias, Tony McMillen, and many of the most exciting new names in crime and horror fiction, who teach us that a perfect day is often anything but, that the power of positive drinking is a destructive force rarely contained, and that knock-down-drag-out drag queens are probably way tougher than you.
Dedicated to the memory and works of Jonathan Ashley.
Proceeds will benefit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-8255.
The Big Thrill caught up with anthology editor David James Keaton to discuss the inspiration behind DIRTY BOULEVARD: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Lou Reed:
From R. Barri Flowers, award-winning criminologist and bestselling author, comes the gripping historical true crime anthology, JEALOUS RAGE: STUNNING TRUE TALES OF INTIMATES, PASSION, AND MURDER, VOLUME 1.
Each chapter will chronicle a riveting, real life, age-old murder case involving jealousy, betrayal, and homicidal fury between spouses, lovers, and others caught in the fatal crossfire, and justice being served or not.
Chapter 1: Murder of the U.S. Attorney: Congressman Sickles’ Crime of Passion in 1859
Chapter 2: Murder of the Doctor’s Wife: The 1867 Crimes of Bridget Durgan
Chapter 3: Murder of the French Lover: The Killing of Madame Lassimonne in 1892
Chapter 4: Murderess on the Loose: The 1922 Hammer Wrath of Clara Phillips
Chapter 5: Killer of Her Husband’s Secretary: The 1935 Love Triangle Ire of Etta Reisman
Chapter 6: Murdered by the King of Western Swing: The Beating Death of Ella Mae Cooley in 1961
Chapter 7: Murder of the Horse Trainer’s Rival: The 1978 Bitter Breakup of Buddy Jacobson and the Model
Chapter 8: Murder of a Star Quarterback in 2009: The Tragic Tale of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi
Bonus material includes two complete and captivating historical true crime shorts, The Amityville Massacre: The DeFeo Family’s Nightmare, and Missing or Murdered: The Disappearance of Agnes Tufverson.
Prolific author R. Barri Flowers sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest anthology:
By Tim O’Mara
In case you somehow missed it—maybe you were up to your neck in your latest WIP—there’s a big election this year. (When’s the last time we had a “small” election?) It seems like every group out there is doing their level best to scream louder than the other groups. Go on Facebook—or don’t—and it’s hard to find a post that’s not pro-this or anti-that and why you should feel the same way. At times, it just feels like so much cocktail party opinionating. (I may have made that word up.)
In an attempt to cut through all this noise, Mysti Berry has compiled and edited a dozen or so crime stories about the voting process in the anthology LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE. Many people may try to pigeonhole writers into a certain political group, but Berry doesn’t see it that way.
“It surprised me when people talked about LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE as political,” she writes via email. “Voting is the most important tool a citizen has to affect change or keep something that doesn’t need to be fixed in the first place, no matter what change or stasis that person thinks is best. To me, specific policy positions are political: pro-this or anti-that. And I do think that writers, regardless of their feelings on certain policy issues, try to avoid preaching from the page. My goal was to get to (some) level of common understanding, not stand on an apple box and shout my policy positions to the world.”
I asked contributor Mariah Klein, whose story “Bombs Away” takes a closer look at voter intimidation, if her entry was based on a real-life occurrence.
Unloaded was an Anthony-nominated anthology that asked writers to tell a crime story without one of the genre’s most common props: guns. Now editor Eric Beetner is back with another collection of great stories in UNLOADED VOL. 2: MORE CRIME WRITERS WRITING WITHOUT GUNS.
For this anthology, Lori Rader-Day, Bill Crider, and 22 other respected crime, suspense, and thriller writers have used well-crafted fiction to call for a sensible and reasoned debate about guns in America. Beetner says the idea was born out of the conflict between his personal feelings about guns and the way he was portraying firearms in his writing.
“I worried I was glorifying them or at least adding to the normalization of guns,” Beetner says. “I think to be a crime writer you have to accept the reality of guns in society and especially in the criminal world, but that doesn’t mean writing gun porn.”
Beetner found several other writers with similarly conflicted feelings and decided that it wasn’t enough just to rant on social media about mass shootings and access to military-style rifles. And when he went looking for contributors to his themed anthology, he found it was incredibly easy to recruit them.
Editors Barb Goffman, Donna Andrews, and Marcia Talley have pulled together 13 authors from the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime for FUR, FEATHERS, AND FELONIES, the wonderfully eclectic eighth volume of the award-winning Chesapeake Crimes anthology series.
The latest entry is all about critters of the furry, feathery, and even boneless kind. There’s nothing as macabre as “The Black Cat” or as frightening as that Baskervilles mutt, though—these entertaining stories are suspenseful and even filled with a spontaneous sense of humor. Where else can you build a murder around an octopus, have a crow solve a crime, or read a story told by a most unlikely bard? Looking for a dog and pony show? How about a dog, cat, bunny, crow, octopus, rat, and, oh yes, an exploding-cow show instead?
The stories are as diverse as the animals that drive their plots. The collection kicks off with Shari Randall’s “Pet,” about a dog groomer and her boyfriend who get mixed up with a rather unpleasant and wealthy client. Next up is Carla Coupe’s “As the Crow Flies,” which travels back to the mid-19th century for the tale of Hermes, a family crow who helps to solve a dastardly crime in the English countryside.
Despite the title, KM Rockwood’s entry, “Rasputin,” is not about a devilish mountebank; rather, Rockwood sheds some light on what Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were really thinking about: that when dogs aren’t helping to save lives, all they really want is to eat, sleep, and play. The next tale also features a canine theme: “Bark Simpson and the Scent of Death” sounds like the title of an Indiana Jones story, but author Alan Orloff subverts expectations by letting a Shih Tzu solve police cases.
The lineup continues with “A Snowball’s Chance,” where Eleanor Cawood Jones spins an intriguing cold case about a fish and a bunny named Snowball. In “Hunter’s Moon,” private investigator-turned-author Robin Templeton takes us on a walk through a story about an Irish setter named Rupert, while volume editor Barb Goffman has some bovine tips on how to relieve that bloated feeling in a surprising way in “Till Murder Do Us Part,” a whodunit about one hot cop and a crime of passion.
Marianne Wilski Strong takes us back in time to a bar in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” which features a tot who solves the crime. It took Linda Lombardi eight slimy arms to wrangle “The Octopus Game,” a story about death and a fish tank. Josh Pachter’s study of military science in “The Supreme Art of War” uses emotions more than science, or perhaps a bit of both.
In “Killer,” Joanna Campbell Slan gives us a Chihuahua named Jonathan—a caregiver’s best friend in an otherwise miserable situation—while Cathy Wiley spins a tale of cats, rats, and a body in “Curiosity Killed the Cat Lady.” Finally, Karen Cantwell’s “Sunset Beauregard” reminds us that there’s more than one dog in Hollywood.
To learn more about Sisters in Crime’s Chesapeake Chapter and the authors featured in FUR, FEATHERS, AND FELONIES, visit chessiechapter.org
By Basil Sands
THE BLACK CAR BUSINESS is an anthology of short stories written by some of the thriller genre’s hottest writers, each crafting a heart-pounding take that propels you from story to story.
Editor Lawrence Kelter took some time out of his schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about what inspired the theme for this anthology and how each tale fits within the book.
What can you tell the readers about THE BLACK CAR BUSINESS?
That ominous sedan is always there—lurking—just out of sight. It’s parked down the street or it’s following you several car-lengths back as you leave the parkway to make your way through the inner city. One fleeting glance of the darkened figure within the shadowy cabin is enough to push you over the edge. After all, we’ve all got something we’re hiding—and maybe, just maybe, it’s payback time. As the hairs rise on the back of your neck you wonder, Who is behind the wheel and what is the driver’s intent? It’s THE BLACK CAR BUSINESS and its presence means your life is about to abruptly change. You try to assure yourself there’s nothing wrong, but your heartbeat quickens nonetheless, and soon you’re running, desperate for that narrow sliver between two buildings to slip through, the one too narrow for the black car to pass through. Will you make it in time? more »
DEAD GUY IN THE BATHTUB is a collection of crime stories with a dark sense of humor and irony. These characters are on the edge and spiraling out of control. Bad situations become serious circumstances that double down on worst-case scenarios. A Lou Reed fan gets himself caught on the wild side. A couple goes on a short and deadly crime spree. A collector of debts collects a little too much for himself. A vintage Elvis collection to lose your head over. A local high school legend with a well-endowed reputation comes home. Paul Greenberg’s debut collection is nothing but quick shots of crime fiction.
Author Paul Greenberg met with The Big Thrill to discuss his new crime story collection, DEAD GUY IN THE BATHTUB:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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:
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.
By 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.
By 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.
Revelatory Stories from a Master of Crime Fiction
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.
By 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.
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:, , , , , , and
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.
An Anthology of Thrilling Fiction for Teens
By 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.
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 Masters, Invasion 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?
By 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.
Behind the Scenes of Editing a Crime-Fiction Collection
By 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?