By Basil Sands
Everybody loves a good sequel to a good original—and hat is what Sarah M. Chen and E. A. Aymar have delivered with SWAMP KILLERS: A NOVEL IN STORIES.
Following on the story originally begun with 2018’s The Night of The Flood, SWAMP KILLERS: A NOVEL IN STORIES provides 16 separate but intertwined sequels from 16 expert thrill-weavers.
Contributors include E. A. Aymar, Sarah M. Chen, Hilary Davidson, Alex Dolan, Rebecca Drake, Gwen Florio, Elizabeth Heiter, J. J. Hensley, Susi Holliday, Shannon Kirk, Tara Laskowski, Jenny Milchman, Alan Orloff, Tom Sweterlitsch, Art Taylor, and Wendy Tyson.
The tales all start off with the same premise, beginning in the aftermath of The Night of The Flood. Timmy Milici, a low-level hitter with the infamous Atlanta-based Duplass crime family, ran off with Melody Duplass to Jacksonville, Florida. Olivia Duplass, her mother and head of the Duplass family, has put a price on Timmy—$100,000 for his corpse—but with explicit instructions that her daughter not be harmed.
Editors Sarah M. Chen and E. A. Aymar sat down for a nice chat with The Big Thrill about narcissistic greed, selfish ambition, and raw revenge that all flows back to the beginning, with a cold twist that will make you look twice.
By Tim O’Mara
According to author Beau Johnson, “Darkness is an attribute most of us rally against. It can consume. It can achieve. But if we so choose, it can also be held at bay.”
Enter Bishop Rider, antihero of Johnson’s latest short story collection ALL OF THEM TO BURN, and the evil he’s chosen to obliterate since his family has been violently taken from him. Operating outside the law and circumventing a system beyond repair, Bishop once again stalks this darkness the only way he knows how. Not only because these men deserve what’s coming to them, but because a message he attempted to deliver has come back to haunt him after many years. It’s this story, along with other, unconnected tales that populate ALL OF THEM TO BURN.
This short story collection is filled with references to films and television shows. The author discussed about their effect.
“Many shows have influenced my writing,” he says. “I could probably go as far back as my days of being a boy and my irrational fear of quicksand and how it was spawned by The Six Million Dollar Man. But I digress. Breaking Bad is in there somewhere for sure. Lost, too. Movies such as Heat and Goodfellas are classics, of course, and I’ll add Tombstone to the list, but Silence of the Lambs will always be my number one. The show as well as the movie, and just so we’re clear, and if pressed, and no offence to Hopkins, I would have to admit that Mads Mikkelsen who played the doctor in Hannibal, is the captain now.
Welcome to the world of Cockney rhyming slang, where what is said means something completely different than how it sounds. Originally, it was a coded language created by criminals for deceiving undercover police officers during Victorian times. Common phrases like septic tank, holy water, brown bread, tomfoolery, and mince pies don’t mean what you think they mean. Others, like Barnaby Rudge, gypsy’s kiss, smash and grab, butcher’s hook, kick and prance, and bubble and squeak paint a picture.
There are stories to be written about these phrases and in TROUBLE & STRIFE, the coded and colorful phrases of Cockney rhyming slang became the inspiration for 11 killer crimes stories from writers on both sides of the pond. A few choice words include:
Babbling Brook is a talkative inmate at the state penitentiary.
A hairdresser has to pay his dues for a crime that took place at Barnet Fair.
And you never want to meet a Lady from Bristol.
You don’t have to understand rhyming slang to enjoy this book. You just have to enjoy a damn good story. To see what the authors have come up with you’ll have to turn the page and have a butcher’s.
USA Today bestselling author Simon Wood spent some time chatting with The Big Thrill about his compilation of crime stories, TROUBLE & STRIFE, where each story is inspired by Cockney rhyming slang:
Author of the fantastic and the bizarre, Jeffrey Ford’s work has won awards and acclaim across the globe for his stories of humor, horror, and unconventional beauty. “Powerful and disturbing in the best possible way” (Gawker) and “Intensely engaging” (Publishers Weekly), Ford crosses speculative genres with literary ideals, which has earned him the World Fantasy Award (seven times), the Shirley Jackson Award (four times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and France’s vaunted Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire.
Dark Moon Books and editor Eric J. Guignard bring you this introduction to his work, the fourth in a series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction. Herein is a chance to discover—or learn more of—the extraordinary voice of Jeffrey Ford, 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!
Enter this doorway to the vast and fantastic: Get to know Jeffrey Ford.
Author and editor Eric J. Guignard spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest anthology, EXPLORING DARK SHORT FICTION #4: A PRIMER TO JEFFREY FORD. Here’s what he had to say:
Texas has it all, from bustling big cities to sleepy small towns, and law enforcement alone can’t solve every crime. That’s where private eyes come in. They take the cases law enforcement can’t—or won’t. Private eyes may walk the mean streets of Dallas and Houston, but they also stroll through small West Texas towns where the secrets are sometimes more dangerous. Whether driving a Mustang or riding a mustang, a private eye in Texas is unlike any other in the world.
THE EYES OF TEXAS features 17 original tales of Lone Star State private eyes from Trey R. Barker, Chuck Brownman, Michael Chandos, John M. Floyd, Debra H. Goldstein, James A. Hearn, Richard Helms, Robert S. Levinson, Scott Montgomery, Sandra Murphy, Josh Pachter, Michael Pool, Graham Powell, William Dylan Powell, Stephen D. Rogers, Mark Troy, and Bev Vincent.
Editor Michael Bracken met with The Big Thrill to tell us all about this Texas-sized collaboration:
Clowns are like politics; everyone has an opinion on them. In this collection of short stories you’ll find numerous takes on the world of the painted harlequin entertainer. Often maligned in today’s day and age, the institution of the clown means something to everyone.
And sure, most of these clowns are armed. They’re less than concerned about the moral ramifications of their actions. Hell, they might be demonic. We’ve got it all. Clown cars, rodeos, adultery, robbery, mayhem, balloon animals, self-immolation, big red noses, cremation chambers, a funeral and kids’ TV shows, just to name some.
We don’t often get the chance to support a great cause and get a great read at the same time, but the opportunity is here in DOWN TO THE RIVER, an anthology edited by Tim O’Mara.
DOWN TO THE RIVER collects 20 crime stories written by some of the best in the business, and they all take place on, or near, American rivers. Rivers, it seems, are not simply sources of life—they prove to be scenes of revenge and murder in these stories.
There are a lot of worthy causes to champion, and O’Mara is involved in a few, such as bringing literacy to incarcerated youth and working with kids with special needs. But he knows that none of them will mean much if we continue to screw with Mother Nature.
“I love rivers,” O’Mara says. “I live a short walk from the Hudson in NYC and spend a good chunk of my summer in Missouri and kayak the creeks out there. Rivers literally connect us all. I can get into a kayak up in Minnesota where the Mississippi River starts and, with enough stamina and supplies, make it all the way into the Gulf of Mexico and then the Atlantic. The United States would not be the great country it is without its fabulous waterways.”
Proceeds from the anthology will support the work of American Rivers, an organization that educates people about our rivers and advocates for them. How did O’Mara get so many great writers to contribute stories? He feels it was a no-brainer for just about every writer he asked to participate.
Haunted. This word lurks within our deepest emotions. It’s a fear we can’t let go of, or that won’t let go of us. It’s a place we dream of going, or a place we can never leave. An LAPD detective is haunted by the case she never solved. A Century City financial advisor is haunted by the greed he cannot escape. A bridge is haunted by ghosts of despair.
In a city of 10 million people, the haunted could be the man waiting to cross the street, or the memory that keeps you awake at night.
FATALLY HAUNTED, a Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles anthology, includes original stories by Julie G. Beers, Julia Bricklin, Roger Cannon, Tony Chiarchiaro, Lisa Ciarfella, Cyndra Gernet, B. J. Graf, Mark Hague, A. P. Jamison, Micheal Kelly, Alison McMahan, Peter Sexton, Gobind Tanaka, and Jennifer Younger.
The Big Thrill caught up with Sheila Lowe to discuss the creation of the latest Sisters in Crime Los Angeles anthology, FATALLY HAUNTED:
Anthems like “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “Vacation” are an indelible part of our collective soundtrack, but more than that, they speak to the power and possibility of youth.
Inspired by punk but not yoked to it, the Go-Go’s broke important musical ground by combining cheeky lyrics, clever hooks, and catchy melodies, perfectly capturing what it feels like to be young and female in the process.
But beyond the Go-Go’s’ effervescent sound and cheerful pop stylings, a darkness underlies many of their lyrics and melodies, hinting at the heartache and frustration inherent in growing up. In other words, plenty to inspire murder and mayhem.
Net proceeds from MURDER A GO-GO’S benefit Planned Parenthood, a crucial provider of women’s affordable reproductive healthcare.
With a foreword by Go-Go’s co-founder Jane Wiedlin and original stories by 25 kick-ass authors, editor Holly West has put together an all-star crime fiction anthology inspired by one of the most iconic bands of the 80s and beyond.
To learn more about this unique collection of stories, The Big Thrill caught up to editor Holly West:
By Dawn Ius
There’s often not a lot of discussion about horror writers outside of the horror writing community—and when there is, the same two names who are generally discussed with any academic credibility come up repeatedly: Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
Author and editor Eric J. Guignard hopes to add variety to that elite list with a series of anthologies that will recognize the work of some of the lesser-known scribes of the genre.
“[Poe and Lovecraft] are widely recognized as the champions of poetic and descriptive dark prose, yet Lovecraft perished over 80 years ago, and Poe near a century before that,” Guignard says. “What they wrote is still compelling today—I’m not saying otherwise—but, so too are there living authors whose words can shape the boundaries of our imagination, who can invigorate and capture our modern tastes and sensibilities, and who can connect us in ways not possible by our literary forebears.”
The latest author to meet Guignard’s discerning criteria is Nisi Shawl. Six of her short works—including one original—are captured in EXPLORING DARK SHORT FICTION #3: A PRIMER TO NISI SHAWL, available now from Dark Moon Books.
In this interview for The Big Thrill, Guignard takes some time out of his busy writing and editing schedule to discuss this project, as well as share some exciting personal news.
Welcome to the cool side of the 1950s, where the fast cars and revved-up movie monsters peel out in the night. Where outlaw vixens and jukebox tramps square off with razorblades and lead pipes. Where rockers rock, cool cats strut, and hot rods roar. Where you howl to the moon as the tiki drums pound and the electric guitar shrieks and that spit-and-holler jamboree ain’t gonna stop for a long, long time . . . maybe never.
This is the ’50s where ghost shows still travel the back roads of the South, and rockabilly has a hold on the nation’s youth; where lucky hearts tell the tale, and maybe that fella in the Shriners’ fez ain’t so square after all. Where noir detectives of the supernatural, tattoo artists of another kind, Hollywood fix-it men, and a punk kid with grasshopper arms under his chain-studded jacket and an icy stare on his face all exist.
This is the ’50s of POP THE CLUTCH: THRILLING TALES OF ROCKABILLY, MONSTERS, AND HOT ROD HORROR. This is your ticket to the dark side of American kitsch . . . the fun and frightful side!
The Big Thrill caught up to Eric J. Guignard to discuss this intriguing new anthology:
The Day Mia Jensen Died, She Finally Got to Live
We’ve all played the “what if” game. For Mia Jensen, “what if” is a fact of life. Dissatisfied with her choices, she often dreams about what could have been. Now she has the chance to know. But that knowledge is going to cost her dearly. Only through death can she fully realize the value of her life.
Forty-year-old Mia Jensen is home after a terrible day, trying to figure out how she’s come to this point in her life, when she hears a strange noise from the kitchen. She investigates, only to be brutally attacked and left for dead. As she dies, she experiences some of the lives that could have been hers had she only made a different choice.
Can one woman find peace with the path she’s chosen before it slips through her fingers forever?
Through the unique voices of New York Times bestsellers and rising stars in women’s fiction, A THOUSAND DOORS examines how our smallest decisions can create lasting effects, and allows the thought—can we actually change our lives?
Contributors include: Kimberly Belle, Laura Benedict, A. F. Brady, Paige Crutcher, Rebecca Drake, Heather Gudenkauf, Patti Callahan Henry, Joy Jordan-Lake, Alisha Klapheke, Ariel Lawhon, Kerry Lonsdale, Catherine McKenzie, Kate Moretti, Lisa Patton, and Kaira Rouda.
The Big Thrill caught up to New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J. T. Ellison to discuss this unique collaboration written by a veritable “who’s who” of rising stars in women’s fiction:
By George Ebey
DEATH TOLL 3: END GAME is a powerful crime thriller anthology that brings together authors based in eight different countries, spanning five continents.
Each of these authors are fan-favorites at the top of their game, and together they represent the best of contemporary crime and thriller fiction.
The Big Thrill recently reached out to editor Alex Shaw to learn what this thrilling new anthology has in store for readers.
What kind of stories can readers expect from this anthology? Is there a particular theme that connects them in a certain way?
DEATH TOLL: VOLUME 3 is a truly international thriller anthology. The overall theme, as the title suggests, is “end game,” but I left this as a suggestion to the authors and am happy with their interpretations. Although each of the stories in the anthology have strong protagonists and are either crime or espionage thrillers, I don’t think any two stories are alike.
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.